Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Before The Deluge

Yesterday, I woke to another day of heavy rain. Worried about possible leaks, my assistant drove to the new enamel studio. She stacked the aluminium trestles at the back of the space and piled folded canvas drop sheets high on top of them.
The last thing we expected was a phone call, around noon, telling us that the city was being evacuated. I turned on the TV news to see footage of a swollen Brisbane River beginning to break its banks. The anchorwoman reported, with exaggerated calm, that "workers in the city had been asked to leave". Bus routes were closed and freeways were thick with cars and taxis. I told my assistant to go home.
A few weeks ago, I'd already moved my stretchers and art materials from a semi-rural studio which, according to news reports, was now already inundated, to a smaller, drier space in my father's home. Now I moved them higher up in the house. I drove to the local supermarket to stock up on food and toiletries for the next few days. The shelves were almost bare and staff handed out sweets to placate the crowds. I filled my truck with petrol. I still wasn't taking it seriously but I thought I may as well be prepared.
Back at my studio, I was at something of a loose end. The paintings I wanted to work on weren't dry enough to re-coat, despite a constant stream of hot air from a heater. I caught up on emails and a backlog of admin' on my website. I left the TV on in the background, set to a 24-hour news channel. The death toll from the flash flood in Toowoomba, an hour west, was increasing. The footage showed a fast-building wave of water sweeping away cars and houses.
The report was interrupted by a a grim announcement from the state's Premier: the Wivenhoe Dam, built to protect Brisbane after the last flood disaster in 1974, was so full it could no longer protect the city. The river was predicted to rise rapidly within 48 hours.
I looked up the flood maps online to see if the areas where I am, and where my father is confined at a hospice,were likely affected. It's unlikely that either of us will be washed out but the roads between probably will be in about 12 hours time. I decided to visit him. I wanted to let him know I was alright.
On the drive back, the streets were deserted except for an occasional, empty bus with a 'No Service' sign illuminated on the front. The only indication that something was wrong was the sound as I drove over bridges: a dull roar of water rushing through creeks and gullies that would soon be too narrow to contain it. It felt like a scene from a movie, the kind shot to build anticipation and fear. My street looked the same as it always does. It was the sound that made it eery. Every TV in every house was tuned to news.
According to Brisbane's Mayor, "A volume of water equivalent to two Sydney Harbours is pouring over the vast dam's spillway into the river every 24 hours." Three quarters of the state, including Brisbane, have been declared disaster zones. Ironically, the only damage I expect to sustain is the loss of a large, unpainted stretcher being kept at a specialist art storage facility. According to flood projections, the building is due to be underwater tomorrow. But I can order another stretcher easily. It won't be as easy for the company, which has transported a lot of my work over the last months, to recover.
This morning, the rain has stopped. The city's power is soon to be be shut down in preparation for the worsening of the flood. Everything is strangely silent: no cars, no trains, no people's voices, not even barking dogs. Anyone who's not evacuating has been asked to stay inside.
I keep on working.


VildesVerden said...

It is all over the news over here in Norway about your situation over there. Fingers crossed for you

Elizabeth said...

Take good care of yourself and be safe.

Miss Twist said...

I hope you and your father remain safe. This is quite insane. Trying to get hold of people to make sure they're alright.

Vic is now on flood warnings as well, and I'm informed we have bush fires in Western Australia. The weather has gone mad.

Karen Martin Sampson said...

Please keep safe! I lived through the 1972 earthquake in LA and was evacuated as we lived below the Van Lare Dam in the valley. It sure puts the important stuff in major focus, doesn't it? As I said before, Keep Safe!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Hazel,

The news reports sound horrific.

SO glad to know that you are safe in your studio!


Anonymous said...

I am just about to go for a swim at the city pool in melbourne. I was thinking of the flooding while swimming there yesterday. Its all very frightening. I have friends who live in Eumundi. They are ok there so far. It must be quite unnerving for you Hazel. I am glad you are ok and hope that this escalating climatic disaster stops soon. Its like a disaster movie without a script or predictable ending in 2 hrs.


Anonymous said...

Thoughts are with you (and your father) at this time. Be safe, well and strong.

Rob Reeves said...

We get our fair share of floods here in the Midwest. Sounds like you've got your head on straight in getting prepared, but not panicky. AND it sounds like you've got your priorities in order.
Keep working to stay sane.
Best of luck to you, your Dad, and all the rest down there.

Be safe!

Lea said...

hej Hazel,
You will have to forgive me, I have been through a few things myself, but never a flood, I do empathised, and of course I miss the positiv side of things.
Your father too but as you know I haved travelled that path While mine I was alone, alone is not fair to say, the nurses were marvellous, weird to remaibn alone that was strange, amonst lots, death is the most lonely affair after love, but then my relationship with the doctor saved me from insanity,despair, quite a man from Scotland with large hands, fat fingers,he was great in all manners, dedicated, he spend 2 white night saving me I guess, then the rest, for one month they gave me up for dead, the special carriedge waiting, I only realised when I saw it gone. Now I walk with friends and I feel like a stone tied around my neck, because I walk again the path of death,insensitiv it seems, this is the hardest -to stay on the side, not going through the gates with them, an impossibility I dare.
I hope it won't last long this flood, and you can resume your works, they are so sensual, so sensitiv, so simple true feelings that it make they impact so strong, so simple scent that is like loving,sniffing your skin, natural scent, female, Don't ask why, you are almost invisible, you are strong ,yes, but not my matter because they are like the flood in the edge of my downfall, my pain to have survived , to be there to look, to taste, to feel sympathy to the desires they convey by me,needs almost, pervers my own mind, suffering the sexual pleasure of a female lover.
~ please do not drown !
hejdo, Lea
ps. don't worry I am not in love with you.not at all as much as you are ideal.

Lea said...

best wishes, soon it will get better. lea