Friday, 28 January 2011

Rising rivers

Written on 20/01/11

In case you've been living under a rock, about 1/4 of Victoria is currently under water. It hasn't been the sudden, Act of God type of disaster that Queensland saw, but a creeping, lapping menace. Town by town, the northern central and western regions of Victoria have gone underwater. Yesterday, 52 towns had been affected.

My office is in Barham, and live in the caravan park sandwiched between the Murray River and the services club acting as an evacuation centre for Kerang. The forest where we work (or, more accurately, have been trying to work since October!) is under water for the third time in that period, while local landholders mutter rumours of a fourth. These people know the exact height of water flowing over Torrumbarry Weir that equates to parts of their property flooding, so I guess they're as good an indicator on the matter as the local water authorities.

One thing I have learnt in the last week is that the media and the road authorities aren't all that great at getting the story right. They're reporting roads shut that aren't, and not mentioning ones that are. It made getting to work the other day a long and tedious journey, and other people have been stranded or ruined their cars through a combination of stupidity and misinformation (more of the former, mind you!).

The one thing they did get right, though, is that we need to dig deep. People haven't died here like they did up north, but they've still lost a lot. And everyone is probably a bit over donating to flood appeals because they've already done it for Queensland, but there are people who need to start from scratch here, too.

And now for the things that the media hasn't mentioned - MURRAY CRAYS ARE CLIMBING OUT OF THE MURRAY RIVER!!! (Note: originally the words BECAUSE THERE'S TOO MUCH WATER were tacked on the end of that, but see the Update at the bottom)

I freaked out a little when I noticed one of these about 5cm from my foot, but then I realised that they were sitting there quite passively. These ones did a pretty good job of hiding, though. There's three there, in case you were struggling.

And another three. It would seem that the good people of Kerang are not the only ones evacuating!

I heard a rumour today that the Murray was flowing backwards due to the floodwaters from both NSW River and Victoria entering downstream of here, but upstream of the next weir along. This has lead to the water on the downstream side of Torrumbarry weir (the one just up from here) being higher than the water on the upstream side. Theoretically, water running uphill  may lead to the Murray breaching its banks in our area. I'm not sure whether or not it's true, but I plan to perpetuate the rumour with the following footage of the Murray flowing in two directions at once, just upstream from the Koondrook-Barham bridge:


                                     video
Who cares if it's true that the river is running forwards and backwards at the same time? It looks like it is (if you're having trouble seeing it, the waterin the foreground is running to the left - upstream - whilst the water near the far bank is running to the right - downstream)! Why should I stick to well-researched facts if the media struggles?? The currents in this river are truly freaky. I had heard mention of their notoriety and never quite believed it, because every time I have seen the Murray it has been a sluggish cesspool of algae. But now I believe it.

Viva la responsible journalism!

28/01/11 UPDATE: This was written more than a week ago. The flood water is still creeping at a rate of 1-2km per day and today, Swan Hill is waiting for it to hit (huh. Guess it's not on a hill, then...). Yesterday I heard that the "puddle" is about 90km long and about 20km wide.

I also found out that the Murray crays were climbing out of the water because of the blackwater coming down the river. Blackwater is anoxic, acidic water, caused by vegetation decaying in stagnant (flood) waters. I'd be climbing out of the river, too, if I were them!

In other flood-related news, PM Julia Gillard has announced a tax to cover the costs of the flood clean-up in Queensland. Firstly, I hope that the Victorians see some of that money. Secondly, I think people need to harden the feck up and stop whingeing about it. The money has to come from somewhere, and I, as a tree-hugger, don't want to see ALL of the environmental initiatives axed to get that money (the broadband network, on the other hand...!). In my humble opinion, we're better off handing over the money than pulling it from somewhere else, because pulling it from somewhere else is exceptionally short-sighted and we'll notice it in five years time when our schools/roads/hospitals fall apart and then whinge about that.

And it's not like we can't afford it - people earning less than $50k are exempt, and whilst the people at the very bottom end of the $50k-$100k pay scale may feel the pinch a little, I would be very much surprised if they were able to tell me that they didn't spend $250 on random purchases throughout the year. DVDs cost between $10 and $30; a milkshake is $6 these days, and who really needs a milkshake??; women would spend at least $75 each year on shoes "because they were on sale"; dropping $20 here and there into the pokies; magazines are between $5 and $10 but that same gossip is FREE online; all-week newspaper subscriptions that people only actually read on weekends; leaving the heater on in winter while you go to work (people actually do that!); going to the cinema costs nearly $20 (I was horrified to discover this - I have been living near an $8 cinema for nearly 3 years and had no idea!!!), or $35 if you add snacks, but a DVD and a packet of chips would set you back about $7... the list goes on! I do think, though, that people who have donated more than a certain amount to flood charities should probably have some kind of partial exemption.

How's THAT for a can of worms :)

Lastly, the river still appears to be flowing backwards!

1 comment:

  1. Poor crays! By the way most of the floods in Queensland were slowly rising rivers too, its just the flash floods get more media coverage as they paint a shocking picture. I agree people should stop whining about the levy. It gradually slides in too depending on your income. At $50 000 it's $1 per week. That's $52 for the year.

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