When American bloggers wrote of being snowed in and having to shovel their way out of their homes it sounded like hard work, not much fun. Some did well to identify the benefits of no electricity, no vehicle and no work. I was grateful to be living on the sunny part of the globe revelling in glorious weather and swimming every day.
We live on the eastern seaboard of Australia and enjoy a temperate climate, pretty perfect for nine months of the year. The four seasons each have definite climatic conditions and nature announces spring and autumn with marked changes in foliage colours. Our stormy months are summer and winter. To be emerging now, from a storm that has plunged us into a state of civil emergency is disconcerting.
I shouldn’t have been surprised because the drive home from work the night before was unpleasant. The small work vehicle is under-powered in perfect conditions but the torrential rain, wind and hazardous driving conditions highlighted how vulnerable drivers of small vehicles are in such conditions. I was pleased to arrive home. The storm conditions continued through the night pounding the iron roof as we lay wondering when some large object might crash through the roof. The sound of rushing water crashed in the usually-dry creek just meters from our home.
We woke to widespread power cuts, 115, 000 homes affected and the knowledge that the storm was not even part way through. It hovered for the next twenty-four hours as it uprooted great trees, dissecting main roads and traffic corridors. Towns were in a state of chaos. Into that mix was the start of a new school term.
With over 150, 000 other homes, we were powerless – literally. No hope of a hot coffee with which to rally ourselves. No stove, landline, and no mobile phones either. Our gizmos remained uncharged. What if I told you we grew up in the 50s and 60s with no electronic devices. We grew up with manual typewriters, telephones with crank handles and a big old agar on which to cook. Yet here we were feeling lost without our tablets, mobile phones and e-readers.
Sad as it was we did figure it out, eventually, and when we found our small battery operated transistor radio we felt we were plugged in again with links to the world outside. That little transistor radio kept us abreast of storm conditions, traffic reports, contact phone numbers and encouraged all non-essential services and staff to remain at home rather than clog up roads already struggling, without the aid of traffic lights, to keep the public moving. I imagined my ride into work without traffic lights but the MOTH suggested I stay home and not add to the congestion. Great idea.
Boy scouts are not the only prepared people. As campers it took minutes to set camp indoors and a few more before our hands were warmly wrapped around mugs of coffee. Ah, me! Life is good. Unplugged we were. But we were warm, had coffee and a gas cooker. I sat down with a puzzle and spent the day with my ear to the radio. It was the most relaxing day for a long time.
Meanwhile outside the storm raged on. Trees came down, some across power lines and debris everywhere. Rivers and creeks rose quickly, too quickly in some towns causing havoc as livestock owners were caught unawares and their stock either broke their fences or were stranded in rising waters. In other areas homes were actually floated off their foundations to be carried downstream. Three people lost their lives caught in their homes while another was drowned in her car, on her way to get a pint of milk.
We went to check on our friends who live on a heavily wooded property; they’re both in their 80s and frail. We found them rugged up, wearing woollen beanies and sheepskin slippers, they were warm and safe. We returned later with a thermos of hot water and a warm meal. It was wonderful to be able to look beyond our needs, which were well met, and be able to reach out to others.
We were only thirty-six hours without power but it reminded us how fragile life is and how reliant the community is on electricity, water and sewage. All of which are beyond our control. Most of all it reminded us these are the circumstances which draw communities closer. The stories of people supporting neighbours, the elderly and families were reported throughout the day.
Sometimes it takes being unplugged to remember the important things in life – people and the needs of others.
Posted as part of the 2015 A – Z Challenge.