Saturday started off a perfectly normal day, rather warm and humid, but we’ve got used to that this summer. After lunch I hung out some washing and made a comment on Facebook about how it would be dry in 10 minutes (yes, I fill my FB page with vital information like that). Ten minutes later, there was a noise on the roof. Rain. I looked outside. It didn’t look as if it would last long, but I threw on a raincoat and went and brought the washing in anyway. I couldn’t see any point in letting it get wet again.
Even then, there was no sign of anything untoward. The rain stopped as soon as I came inside again (soaking wet). Half an hour later, I was playing my harp when the lights went off. I figured the rain must have shorted a wire somewhere up the road. I could still see, so I kept on playing. Then suddenly everything went pitch black and I heard Dynamo shout “Mum! Come and look.” I stumbled out to find the world outside had turned deep orange – the colour of the soil around here. The dust flying through the air was so thick that it had cut out the sun and we couldn’t see more than a few feet from the window. We fell over each other and furniture, trying to get to all the open windows to shut them. Then we stood in awe as our farm and those of our neighbours flew past the window.
The dust storm probably only lasted about ten minutes, but it was ten minutes I don’t wish to repeat in a hurry. After a little while, Sausage, who had snuggled up very close to me asked, “Mum, why am I shaking? I can’t possibly be cold.” She’d obviously never been that scared before. As the rain that followed cleared the air, we stared out at toppled trees, fences covered with grass and dirt, and a mangled washing line. I’ve never been so glad to have got wet bringing in washing. But somehow, despite the ferocity of that wind (apparently going at 120 kph), not a single building on the farm had been damaged. Over the hill, our neighbours had not been so lucky, losing their roof in the wind and their ceilings in the rain. I can only guess it had something to do with living in a valley between two hills. Maybe the worst of it bounced over the top of us.
The storm raged on into town, too, snapping huge trees, taking roofs and filling everyone’s houses with orange-red silt. Then on it went to do the same to the next town as well. Falling trees knocked out power lines and power poles were ripped from the ground like weeds.
In the town to the west of us, where devastating bushfires caused heartbreak last year, they had watched the storm coming with a feeling of deja vu. But just as the huge wall of dust and cloud seemed certain to descend on them, it turned and headed in another direction. They got the peripheral rain and wind, but were spared the full onslaught.
Once power was restored to most houses and businesses (a huge task), things returned to normal except, perhaps, for one thing. Throughout town, there’s a renewed appreciation of the power of Nature. On Thursday, there seemed to be more than the normal amount of yawning going on at work. Then someone said, “I should have gone to bed earlier, but I wanted to know what happened.” Everybody nodded their understanding, because we’d all done the same. She wasn’t talking about a TV programme or football match. We’d all stayed up to find out how the people of Queensland survived the Category 5 Cyclone that was bearing down on them. It wasn’t morbid fascination. It was genuine caring. If we’d been terrified by 120kph winds, how did they feel in the face of winds three times that speed? The devastation it caused made our storm look like a gentle sea breeze. That more people didn’t get killed is nothing short of amazing.
And today Victoria is underwater. What’s happening to our weather?