Christmas is over and New Years is just around the corner. So far this festive season has been wet, wet and......well, wet. Yesterday I went to Cairns Central and in almost every shop they have the same sign. 'Due to flooding the items advertised have not yet arrived. We apologise for any inconvenience.' This message covered food, clothing, books, dvd's and any other thing you could possibly think of. Only a few weeks into a wet season we were promised would be bigger and wetter than ever before and we are already struggling to stock shelves.
The cyclone crossing on Christmas Day was a lovely little puff of air and brought the necessary rain with it to wash away the bad energy from the year. Most people slept through it. If only all cyclones were like Tasha. Unfortunately, they aren't. I have been through Joy, Winifred, Steve, Justin, Olga, Larry and many others that were memorable for all the wrong reasons. Lost roofs, trees, a car and on one occasion.....everything inside the home I had was lost (thanks Justin), so I know the power of a cyclone above a Category 1. Even Steve, which was a Category 1 and was downgraded to a rain depression after crossing, was a nasty weather system. Small and compact, it crossed with much noise and enough rain to isolate my home and make driving impossible for several days.
Never make the mistake of thinking that a lower category of cyclone or a small system will not do much damage. Never think that because a cyclone crosses outside the Cairns area it will not affect us. The damage that Joy, Winifred and Larry did to the greater Cairns region was pretty horrendous and the noise while they were crossing was unbelievably loud and frightening.
We are lucky in Cairns because the mountains and the islands protect us from most cyclones. We rarely get one that crosses directly above us and for that we should be grateful, but not complacent. Just because we have largely be spared the ferocity of a major cyclone is no indication that we will always be so lucky.
Even without the cyclone, we had a very wet Christmas this year. We are isolated again from all of the rest of the state. Cairns doesn't even need to record a high level of rain to feel the affects of rain, south of us is the area we feel it the most. The stores are feeling it, the travellers are feeling it and the businesses in the area are most definitely feeling it.
Flood mitigation is a great phrase and one which is dragged out every time we suffer a bit due to inclement weather. The reality is that it would be almost impossible to floodproof the Bruce Highway from a deluge like the ones we have seen this week. My entire life we have been cut off south of here every decent wet season.
The rain comes, the roads are cut (it used to be power too) and nobody really minded. Now, people panic if there aren't enough Doritos on the shelves. Along with a cyclone pack, we should all have a box of food that is for use when flood become a major issue. Fill it with all the goodies you wish you had access to all the time. I see no reason why it wouldn't be possible to have a cyclone kit and a flood kit ready to go every November, just in case.
The roads will be clear soon, they probably already are, and the food and clothes and books will all be in the stores before 2011. If you feel helpless and useless, even bored, while the flooding is occurring, why not consider being a part of the solution. I am positive that there are many ways we can all help make the wet season less traumatic.
Join the SES if you are really keen to help. They are out there in all kinds of tough situations, making our lives easier without questioning the need for their services. The SES trademark has been shown on plenty of backs during every news broadcast this past week. It's a noble thing to do, a necessary thing for the region and I am sure there is always room for more volunteers at your local SES office.
Become a member of the Red Cross. Throughout all of the coverage about these floods the one constant has been the Red Cross volunteers. They are there to help people pick up the pieces after a catastrophe, they are willing to lend a hand with the most mundane or the most complex of tasks just to help bring some order to the chaos. These volunteers are always available, always welcome and again, this organisation would probably be very happy to get some more volunteers on their books.
If the scope of the SES or the Red Cross sounds like a bit too much for you....go small. Keep in close contact with an elderly neighbour and check on them before and after storm activity. Invite the neighbours over for a cuppa every now and then to ensure that you all know one another and you are all there for one another if required. I have met some amazing people in all of the areas I have resided, been through cyclones with them, babysat their children, grieved with them and celebrated with them. I have many friends who once were neighbours and they still help me celebrate important events in my life.
Neighbourhood Watch is a very important organisation in every neighbourhood it flourishes. It helps to keep crime down and keep people safe and does a great job doing both of those things. There is nothing wrong with taking that whole concept a step further and starting to look out for one another in emergencies of all kinds.
We chose to live here in Cairns. The winter is luxurious and the environment is stunning. We are stuck sometimes in that tough place where we are unsure if we are a large town or a small city. We want the conveniences of living in a city but hate the lack of personality that goes along with that. We love the small town feel we still occasionally have, but hate the backward thinking and small scale progress that often goes with that. We will always suffer from isolation in the wet. Somehow we need to learn to accept that fact and turn it into a positive.
How successful we are at doing that depends on all of us. Being involved in the community will allow us to focus on our area and worry less about what is happening down the road. Compassion for those who have lost their homes and their livelihoods would stop us being so selfishly annoyed by what is happening to us. Joining a group that has a purpose in this kind of weather is a sure-fire way to stop feeling helpless and inadequate.
The short and simple answer to all of this is to get out there and get involved. Look out for neighbours, friends and family and most importantly....stop worrying about things you can't control.
Enjoy the start of 2011. Here's hoping the rest of this wet season is a little kinder than predicted but if not, stay safe.