The heroes of the hour

Well, we’re through the worst and out the other side.

Overflowing gutters, gale force winds and total rain white-out

Yesterday was a horror. The Cyclone After-Party was worse than the main event from my point of view. All Tuesday night and all day Wednesday the rain was absolutely torrential, the wind was consistently stronger, and our gutters gave up on the job of carrying the water away. The downpipes basically exploded at ground level, and instead of the water running away into the land drains, it surged into the under-house soil and started seeping upwards. By mid morning we were almost ankle deep. Two hours of shifting and lifting had the worst crisis averted; after a flooding experience about 8 years ago, I store a lot of stuff in large plastic tubs which are of course waterproof and make excellent platforms for me to put the non-waterproof stuff on.

The dampness and smell in the house is pretty bad. So isn’t it a good thing that this morning the sun came out hot and strong? Initially, of course, the humidity was terrible, but then the wind picked up a bit and we could get some serious ventilation going. Most of the water is gone, the wet patches are drying, and despite the fact that every hard surface outside – and most of the floor at ground level inside – is covered with a film of mud and the grassed areas sink ankle deep into silty mud, I’m beginning to feel a lot more cheerful.

Our glamorous heroine, who kept her cool when all around were losing theirs

Miz Lizzie has been a godsend. By the end of the day yesterday we were both at the end of our tethers. We’d been filthy and soaked to the skin three times, trying to sort out the gutters, we were exhausted, grumpy, hungry and dirty. I called a halt. We had super-speedy ‘army showers’ (wet down, turn water off, soap down, rinse off, maximum 2 minutes of water), got into clean clothes, I made us a nice supper and we took it into the cool, clean caravan and ate it and got into cool, clean beds and slept, abandoning our blacked out, dark, hot, damp and smelly house for a few hours of peace.

Ozito inverter generator, a sturdy lad with 3300w smooth sine wave output, suitable for sensitive equipment. What a guy!

The other hero of the hour has been Ozzie the generator, who has run enthusiastically and without trouble, keeping our fridge cool enough that we haven’t had to throw anything out. He’s not even that thirsty, being quite economical even on high draw. We’ve moved him from the garage down the length of the back yard to our very ramshackle shed, so that he can be noisy elsewhere. In case you’re worried we ran a generator in an enclosed space, one entire wall of the garage is made of those ornamental pierced blocks for air flow. The shed is so very dilapidated that ventilation is completely irrelevant; the entire structure is riddled with holes large and small. We were hoping the cyclone would take it away for us, so that the insurance would buy us a nice shiny new one. No such luck; it’s entirely unscathed. Bummer.

Today’s post is going to be the final TC Debbie report. I don’t know when power will be restored, probably some time next week, but in the meantime we’ll be working to restore order slowly. Obviously sewing’s out of the question but I’ll find something to tell you about 🙂

This has been your WordPress Cyclone Field Reporter, bringing you the news hour by hour from the ‘Clone Zone. Until next time, Chiconia Out.

The Sting in her Tail

TC Debbie isn’t done with us yet.

I woke up at 2.30am, hot and uncomfortable, and realised the power was out. The wind had risen again and this time, it was coming from the north. After phoning the power company and explaining to the after-hours help-desk in Brisbane that this was north Queensland and the TC Debbie aftermath, the nice lady was unable to give me any idea when power might be restored, said that we were among 430 households without power in this area, the guys who would fix it wouldn’t be allowed out till the wind eased and it was daylight, and please don’t go outside in the dark in case there was a live cable lying on the ground. Reasonable, in the circumstances.

By 6.30am we were still out. The Husband also discovered that Debbie’s circulation ‘afterburn’ had blown over the fence between us and our left hand neighbours and stripped a lot of leaves. It was still raining… The wind has veered round to the north instead of the east, so we’re getting a whole new set of things being blown over/down/around.

This’ll have to go before we can get the car out…

At 9.30am we resigned ourselves to an extended period without power. We fired up the generator and plugged the fridge into it. You can do without a lot of electrical things, but no fridge is a tough one. It’s a powerful, but not particularly quiet, generator, so if we still have no power at bedtime, we’ll hook the generator up to the caravan all the way out the back and sleep there – at least we can run the aircon in there and be comfortable. It’s still around 27°C/80°F.

We have battery lanterns, the phones and laptops are charged, we have a mobile internet dongle, the fridge is running and once it’s cooled down again, we can plug in other stuff to make life a little more pleasant. Personally, I’m eyeing the big pile of wet towels in the laundry. They’re going to get a bit feral unless dealt with soon… Unfortunately, our local supermarket is one of the places without power, so at some stage we’ll have to extract the car from its place of safety, squelch and slide through the mud and stormwater, and go foraging. I can feed us for many more days on what I have, but it’s the coffee…. must have milk! And speaking of coffee, we must unearth the stovetop percolator from the caravan – the plunger coffee tastes pretty ordinary compared with the stuff we’ve been drinking.

What we’re seeing is the long thin band of bad weather that’s whipping round in Debbie’s tail. There’s rain, wind, thunder and lightning. Just what we need to help with the clean up! We’ve subsequently discovered that the big old trees by the school at the end of the street have dropped limbs onto the power lines, hence the outage. It’s not going to be a priority fix; the precedence goes to hospitals and emergency services, service stations and supermarkets, and then everything else. The school will be closed anyway. I reckon they’ll take their time. It could be up to a week. What fun, eh? Not.

On the upside, we have a generator, a solid roof over our heads, clean running water and enough food. I consider us rather lucky.

UPDATE

If you’re located in Central or SE Queensland, or Northern to mid North Coast NSW, I urge you to read this report from Higgins Storm Chasing about forthcoming weather. Friends, you’re in for a severe wetting and early notice may help you take measures. I’d show you the radar map of what it looks like from the Bureau of Meterorology, but the website’s currently so over-subscribed I can’t even get it to open 😦

UPDATE 2

Later the same day: It has rained almost without ceasing all day, and very heavily. If it gives you any idea, we had 20.2mm in two minutes, as recorded at the weather station at Mackay Airport. That’s ridiculous. I finally managed to get onto the BoM website, and here’s the jolly picture. This weather system isn’t going away without a fight…. Having mopped a lot of that rain up off our lower ground floor where it had broken in uninvited, I feel a certain sense of ownership of this storm. It’s either that, or have a good cry…

And now, we are retiring to our comfy, cool, dry watertight caravan to sleep the sleep of the just. Or perhaps the deserving. Or just bloody tired.  More in the morning.

Heeeere’s Debbie!

She’s made landfall… finally.

She’s been a slow old cow of a cyclone. All this loitering around has allowed her to gain size and strength, and she’s dawdled down our way, curtseying this way and that while she picked her spot. She toyed with Hamilton Island for a while, much to the fury of the tourists at the luxury resorts there, who couldn’t get home because all flights were cancelled. Ayr looked like her first choice, then Bowen, then Mackay, then back to Bowen. She finally made up her mind and stepped ashore on the mainland at Airlie Beach, south of Bowen and north of Mackay. Airlie’s currently got a couple of hours of respite, being in the eye right now, but we’ve seen some shocking and very widespread damage on the news. She’ll be coming round to slap them on the other cheek soon… Bowen’s next, being  on approximately the same latitude and further east, following the order of circulation. Proserpine will get a drubbing too.

She’s been increasing in strength the whole time, and in the final stages of her journey, it was debatable whether she’d turn into a Category 5, but she finally crossed still as a 4.  The eye is about 50km across, so you could stand in the centre and not be able to see the ‘arena’* or even know there was anything going on. She’s been clearly visible from a long way out in space, which is unusual. You have to remember that this bad girl is over 500km/310 miles across

It’s still going to take a while before the bad weather is over for us. We’re to the south of the track, where the worst of the damage is to be expected – cyclones rotate clockwise, unlike typhoons or hurricanes in the northern hemisphere, which rotate the other way. Once the wind has passed over land, it eases somewhat, so areas to the the north of the track experience less damage. We’re also low-lying, so the storm surge is probably our biggest worry, and from what we’ve seen of the coverage, it’s already bad and some areas in Mackay are already well under water. Given that we had high tide 2 hours ago, and the rain is incessant, I don’t see that situation resolving any time soon.

Our winds have picked up. It’s screaming like the damned out there, trees are lying right over, and the rain is hammering on the windows like it was being squirted out of a fire hose. The weather station at the airport is where we’re pulling our data, but it hasn’t updated for a while. I know the pressure is dropping steadily as the wind increases. Now we just sit tight and wait, and wait some more. But we’re safe from the deadliest part of the cyclone, we just have very dirty weather. She’ll be turning south and east now, losing intensity all the time, and bringing some desperately needed rain to inland areas.

*For an idea of how this looks take a look at this “Katrina, Hurricane: inside eyewall of storm”. Photo. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Web. 27 Mar. 2017.

The unwanted visitor

That Debbie, she’s a pain in the backside.

Just before midnight, it became clear she had turned slightly, and we weren’t going to cop the worst of it after all. We went to bed at midnight, after checking the Bureau track map. It had been a long and tiring day. After 4 hours, we abandoned sleep. The pressure had plummeted, the wind speed had risen to a quiet scream, the rain was hurling itself at the front of the house like a crazed axe murderer. After a brief foray outside to the circuit box to throw one of the trip switches back on, the Husband reported that all was secure and dry inside. So we’re back on track watching. We know how lucky we are. Wind speeds on Hamilton Island are currently 187kmph/116mph…

I don’t know if you’re graph and chart enthusiasts. I am, I love a graphic representation of data. And this is ‘my’ cyclone, so I get to show the pictures. Below are charts showing rainfall and pressure/wind speed. You can see how the increasing wind speed correlates with the continuous drop in pressure associated with a cyclone. It’s going to get a lot lower and the wind gusts a LOT harder before we’re done.

Here’s where TC Debbie is sitting right now

So, it’s been pretty windy and wet, but the worst is still to come. I’m very glad neither of us has to be anywhere else today. For one thing, a bit more sleep would have been good, but nature’s sound effects put paid to that! I’m grateful that we were able to sleep in our own bed instead of on a strange floor somewhere. I’m grateful the roof over our head is holding on, and that we still have power. But most of all, I’m grateful not to be in Bowen tonight…

I’ll be updating this post as the morning progresses, so check in later for more news. Meanwhile, so long from the pointy end…

 

Update from the Zone

The Cyclone Zone, that is.

We’re not bang in the middle of it, but those who are have better things to do than report, so for those who are interested, here’s the latest.

Yup. We’re still waiting for Miss Debbie to get her lardy great arse in gear and actually go somewhere. Sorry, do I sound annoyed? That’s because I am. With apologies to Bob Marley “the waiting here is not fine”, because the longer she lurks out there at sea, the bigger and uglier and stronger she gets.

The darker orange area is for strong destructive winds and gales, which we can expect by tomorrow morning. The lighter orange is a watch zone for gales within 48 hours. The category symbol in the storm centre is in blue for actual and light black for forecast, bold black for historic.

If you like maps and charts and tracking stuff, which I do, there’s a heap of information out there. The Bureau of Meteorology is putting out 3-hourly updates, and I’m keeping a close eye on the Higgins Storm Chasing bulletins and the links they give for other sites. This one‘s my favourite – ooh, colours and swirly!

To all those who’ve sent good wishes and crossed fingers, a big thank you. Quite apart from everything else, responding and commenting back has kept my mind off the impending weather 🙂

UPDATE

She’s turning south. The question is whether she’ll hit the coast before she hits us…

For those who don’t live in a cyclone zone, it’s hard to imagine what it means. Here’s a YouTube clip from Cyclone Marcia in 2015, the one that missed us by turning south towards Rockhampton when she was only 150km offshore. That’s a Category 3 you’re looking at. We have a Category 4 heading our way.

I’ll keep posting updates as long as we have power. And once it’s over I’ll let you know we’re clear 🙂

 

Here we go again…

It’s that time of year in the tropics.

Well, to be strictly accurate, it’s rather late in the year for this sort of thing. I’m talking about Tropical Cyclones. But yes, we’re on alert again. There’s already an active system off the coast of Western Australia, Tropical Cyclone Caleb. So if ours develops, it’ll probably begin with D…

image © Accuweather

This is what the low pressure system off our coast is currently looking like. It’s not yet an official Tropical Low, the stage before Tropical Cyclone. Yet. However, Higgins Storm Chasing reckons we’ve got a 75% chance of the thing converting to something nasty by Sunday.

If you want to read more on this story, go here. Higgins Storm Chasing have an excellent record of accurate reporting, photographing and predicting some of our more energetic weather events. The coastal strip between Cairns and Mackay is involved, and although the Bureau of Meteorology hasn’t yet issued the official warning, we’re paying close attention, and I’ll be hooking up the caravan to power and firing up the ‘van fridge tomorrow in case we lose power in the house and have to transfer food to the ‘van fridge, which can run on LPG, or propane. Time also to hit the supermarket and lay in some groceries and emergency supplies, fill some water jerrycans, etc. Last time this happened, Cyclone Marcia reached Category 5, and was 150km off our coast, and then it abruptly turned left and made landfall just north of Rockhampton instead.

I hadn’t counted on babysitting the Dowager’s cat during a major weather event, but she’ll just have to put up with it. She’s vocal enough at the best of times, but I’m really not looking forward to the incessant yowling and complaining because she can’t go out…

If you could cross your fingers that the low either deteriorates or passes north or south of us, that would be appreciated. I’d rather the former; that way no-one gets clobbered.

UPDATE:

It’s beginning to appear that we may escape the wind. Not the rain, however, widespread flooding is on the cards for most of northern Queensland.  The image below is the 8 day rainfall forecast from the Bureau of Meteorology. I think I need to find some sandbags…

On a roll with a roll

I’ve found a small and gentle job on which to reintroduce my squished finger to sewing.

It’s a crochet hook roll for Alys at Gardening Nirvana, a thank you gift for sending me some jumbo crochet hooks from the US, sizes I couldn’t get here. It all started when I was making the chunky denim yarn mat to put in Miz Lizzie, and now that I’m making another mat with ‘plarn’ (plastic bag yarn), the big hooks have come in very useful.

Having very recently sorted my scraps into usable colour order, I was able to dip straight in and select suitable strips in her favoured colours of blue, green and purple. Alys is just starting out with crochet and doesn’t have a huge hook collection (yet!) but I’m sure that if her enthusiasm takes off there will be many more, so I’ve tried to allow for a couple of hooks in several sizes from weeny to big and chunky. There’s also a slot for a small pair of scissors. Fortunately I also had scrap batting in roughly the right size too, so the project came together quickly and easily. The binding around the edge is identical to what I use for quilts, but half an inch narrower for a tidier effect. I’m rather pleased with the whole thing.

The process is pretty simple – I didn’t think about doing it as a tutorial till it was finished, and too late, so sorry about the lack of photos. Hopefully it’s fairly self-explanatory:

  • Make a piece of fabric up using scrap strips, or use whole cloth if you prefer. Make a lining piece or again, use whole cloth. Trim a 1 inch strip off the outer fabric – you’ll need this later. Trim everything so it’s square and straight, and spray baste together in a sandwich with batting in the middle.
  • Make or cut a piece of fabric to form the inner pocket for the hooks. It needs to be at least 3 inches shorter than the roll itself. Bind the top edge of this with the 1 inch strip you cut off the outer fabric, and topstitch down. Lay the pocket piece down onto the inside of the sandwiched fabrics. Pin the left and right edge in place.
  • Take a ruler and quilt marker, and mark out pockets for the scissors and crochet hooks, up and down the full height of the tool roll, from the bottom of the pocket, across the binding and onto the lining fabric. Ensure you create pockets of a variety of sizes.
  • Quilt the lines you have marked through all layers, including the pocket. Trim out the roll to get rid of uneven edges and any threads. Cut a 2 inch wide strip of binding fabric the circumference of the roll plus a few extra inches. Press it in half along its length.
  • Bind the roll with this narrow binding. (I’ve done a binding tutorial elsewhere, which you can find here) I hand-stitched down the inside edge rather than the outer one as I felt this would be more durable. Stitch on a button loop or piece of elastic to the centre of the right hand outer edge. Stitch a button to the approximate vertical and horizontal centre of the outside of the roll. You may need to move it slightly left or right to accommodate something inside, so test with tools in the roll before you finalise the button position.
  • Put tools into roll. Roll up into three sections and secure with button. You’re done!

Now that I know the finger’s up to sewing, I’ll be returning to the projects in hand. It’s time to get quilting on a couple of things, including making a start on the TWX blocks