Cyclone Oswald had devastated northern Queensland towns before slowly degrading as it worked down the coast. We had plenty of warning, but many were still poorly prepared for the massive rainfalls experienced, and those winds! Well, if that wasn’t a cyclone, we don’t need to feel one.
The winds built up on Saturday 26th January and the rain fell in earnest on Sunday. By Sunday evening roads were closing and our brigade members joined the Auxiliaries, operating from the Ambulance base on Main Western Road as this was the only appropriate facility with a power generator and radio setup still operating. Roll on our new building!
We concentrated on keeping the main access roads to and from the mountain clear of fallen trees and debris, but nearly all roads were eventually unusable because of slips, flooding and multiple trees down in the case of Tamborine Mountain Road. Henry Robert Drive continued to give access to Nerang and the world throughout the event despite some trees down and was used several times by an ambulance transferring patients to hospital.
As Energex rapidly became overwhelmed with broken power lines and SES had difficulty reaching their station, the local firies and ambos were on their own for the next day of wild weather. We managed to clear some driveways and prevent access to fallen power lines but conditions remained dangerous and the cleanup could not start until the winds eased on Tuesday. The Rapid Damage Assessment (RDA) team of senior fire officers carried out a quick assessment of the mountain on behalf of the Scenic Rim Regional Council, with a view to future tasking of teams for the cleanup, and Council subsequently tasked SES, Volunteer Community Educators and Surf Lifesaver volunteers with visiting each household for detailed data on their damage status.
Our brigade teams continued with multiple chain sawing jobs on the Wednesday and Thursday, usually tasked by the SES team at their base, and then continued the theme with a busy day for a TM52 team, cleaning out mud-filled houses in the Lowood area NW of Ipswich.
The conclusions drawn are that we truly are becoming an “all risks” force, and that the mountain must always retain the capability to operate all emergency services entirely independent of any external agency. While power and fixed line telephone services failed dramatically, radio communications other than strictly local were also affected. The bright spot was the generally good comms via the mobile phone network – if you had a phone and could charge it, there was help available. And the local ABC radio station on 97.1 or 612 am, as the Emergency Broadcaster, kept a running commentary on developments.