The rain stopped falling over
Flood levels have been marked by flattened vegetation and debris including entire trees, caught on riverbanks and bridges and a fresh layer of silt and mud covers the ground where the water has passed. As the rivers and creeks settle down to flow between their banks again, many are again astonished to see how high the water came, as well as its sheer volume and power.
As the week has passed, I have spent time looking at the aftermath and the extent of the damage has become clear. A little guilt creeps in as I recall how so many of us enjoyed the excitement of the roaring water, ignorant of the damage occurring below the surface. As creeks and rivers spilled their banks, they gouged new paths and deposited rocks as they passed. Many trees were toppled and the river has left behind a debris-choked mess covering walking tracks and obscuring swimming holes. Indeed some tracks and swimming holes no longer exist.
As those who were unaffected directly look forward to the warmth of summer, there are many for whom hard work begins. In the Alpine Shire alone, the cost of repairing damage to roads, drains, parks and bridges may be over $1million. Some property owners face considerable costs in replacing fences and rebuilding roads as well.
During the floods CFA volunteers put in time sandbagging and assisting with rescues, but our work is not finished. The effect of the floods will continue for us into summer. Only a short time ago, Porepunkah Fire Brigade members spent time assessing water fill points, noting work to be done, such as clearing trees to make them usable. It will all have to be done again. This became apparent to me as I rode along a track by the creek, wheels spinning in the thick layer of mud, the path now unrecognizable. Glancing over the usually rocky surface, towards a ford that is used as a water fill point, able to site two Tankers, all I saw was water. Swiftly flowing water. The creek had scoured an entirely new path, nearly 100m from its original course, obliterating the gentle slope and easy access to the creek. Now the road ends abruptly at a steep, unstable bank. How many other water points are damaged or inaccessible?
Another issue facing us all this summer is the state of our fire tracks. The rain that caused the floods has also triggered landslides in the often steep terrain. The result is sections of roads missing or blocked by rubble. The bush is also full of fallen timber as the sodden soil becomes unstable, and fire track damage is still unknown. We might not know about them until we are called to a lightning strike and head bush in the middle of the night. While DSE will be busy inspecting and clearing tracks, this summer more than ever, crews need to make sure the chainsaw is kept in top condition.
And so with the sun shining, drying out the earth, reminding us the fire season is around the corner, the Porepunkah crew will be out checking the water points, and I imagine our neighboring brigades in the Ovens and