Thursday, May 21, 2009

Storm front


Not long after we arrived on the Sunshine Coast, there were states of emergency at the north and south ends of the country. This week, we got our turn. A low pressure system created a massive storm that hit the coast on Tuesday night.
It rained hard all through the night, and continued into the morning. The region to the south of us was the hardest hit, with roads washed out or closed due to flooding. Motorists were stranded on their cars when they tried to drive through deep water. Even the Bruce Highway, which is the main north-south road to Brisbane, was closed in both directions (which is a bit like getting enough snow to close Highway 400).
By mid-morning Wednesday the rain was still falling heavily to the south, but it was tapering off around here. Then I got a call from Sharon: they're evacuating the schools. Go get Ana, she said, then come and pick up the rest of the family!
Apparently this is not something they usually do, but the police had advised school officials that a second big storm was expected later that day. If it hit the area, the flooded creeks and fields would soon overflow and people would be cut off. Better to have the kids at their homes, police reckoned. So thousands of parents drove to the schools to pick up their children and take them home... where they watched the sun shine brightly for the first time in days. It was a gorgeous, hot afternoon, which we spent in the park in Coolum.
Not everyone was so lucky, though. The storm hammered the southern part of the Sunshine Coast as well as Brisbane and the Gold Coast. Some places got 200 mm of rain in a few hours. Others received a third of their usual annual rainfall in 24 hours. It certainly put an end to any lingering worries about drought in the region -- in 48 hours, the water reservoirs received an entire year's water supply, pushing them above 70 per cent capacity for the first time in many years.
The news websites have some pretty dramatic pictures and video of the storm wreckage, and the region has been declared a disaster zone. Around here, though, the most dramatic effect is to be seen on the beach. The surf is the biggest we've seen so far, with three metre waves just pounding on the shore. The surf reports are saying conditions today are amazing, but only for expert surfers. Everyone else, they say, could end up in a bit of bother if they try to ride these waves.
Even so, some people can't resist a good wave. Not long after I took the picture above, at Sunrise Beach, I saw a man going for a swim. And yesterday afternoon Sharon and Isaiah saw two body boarders in the waves at Coolum. It was high tide, and the waves were so big that the beach was completely buried in foam. Sharon said she kept waiting for the boarders to get smashed against the retaining wall, but they seem to have survived it.
I suspect Charlotte's surfing lesson will be cancelled today. Even if it isn't, I think we'll tell her it is.

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