Rockhampton Flood Crisis – Attack Of The Blood Suckers

Posted on Fri 01/07/2011 by



Where I mention the Media here, be cognizant of the fact that in effect, I am doing the same as they are, albeit on a much lesser scale, and on a more intimately personal level than they are. I never thought I would in effect be live blogging a flood. So, if I have a ‘polite’ dig at the media, I realise that in a way, I can also see that guy in the mirror pointing back at me also.

With this main image here, click on the image to open it in a new and larger window, and then because it is a panorama, click on that image in that new window again, and scroll across the screen to see the whole image in even larger close up.

This image shows a Panorama of the flooding. You can make out the river flowing through the City at around centre screen, and all the inundation is in that area behind the built up area you can see here. The main affected area of flooded homes is close to the city on the left of the image on the far side of the river as you see it here in this image.

The flood peak looks to have finally made it here into Rockhampton City, and fortunately, it only made it to 9.2 Metres. (29 feet and 11 inches) The expected peak was 9.4 metres and some of you may think that extra 8 inches may not be much, but as I explained in the earlier post, that 8 inches means an awful lot to people with water lapping close to their floorboards, and those with belongings stacked just above the water level. That seemingly small amount of water, that extra 8 inches means that up to 100 homes will not have water flowing above the floor boards. That peak has now slowly dropped to 9.15 metres, barely 2 inches. It is expected to stay at this 9.15 mark for a day or two, and then start, very very slowly to drop, and it will remain above 8.4 metres for around ten days or so, before slowly dropping even further, so this is as I have always said, a slow motion disaster, and right now, it’s just waiting, waiting, waiting for those people who hope to move back into flooded homes, when the heartbreak will be even further intensified for them.

The main TV media all had crews here covering this disaster, from the main National Broadcaster, as well as the three commercial ‘Majors’. As you might expect, their focal point was the most obvious of all, that flood marker. At one time I visited, I counted 4 Outside Broadcast vans with all their stuff, leads taped across the ground and along the railing of the metal fencing to where they had set up a small tent without sides. The interview point always had that flood marker in the background, and the announcers talked to camera with the flood waters rushing by behind them.

Now, I have no problem with that whatsoever, because the wider Australia needed to know what was actually happening here. Those crews occasionally drove, or boated around the flooded areas and got images of heart wrenching inundation, and what is more unimaginable is the wrenching on the hearts of the occupants of those homes.

Like everyone, I watched those major news bulletins, well, not all of them but one of the Majors of my choice and the National Broadcaster, both in their major evening news bulletins, and also the Current Affairs programs that follow those bulletins each evening.

I’ve been watching the media reports on this flood, not chasing every single one of them, but just as a general overview of things, and I would like to make some observations on that.

Early on in the piece, long before the flood peak arrived, there was in fact some International reports about the flood that I noticed on media outlets in the U.S. and also in the UK. These mainly mentioned the tragic deaths of a couple of people when their cars were washed off flooded roads. One major report mentioned in quite bold type that their was fear of crocodiles being washed into homes during the flood, giving the impression that it might be a fairly common thing.

Now I know full well that there are some ‘salties’ (saltwater crocodiles) that are in fact close to the city here, and one place is near the two meat works on the North side of the river, and off towards the South a bit, and they will feed off the offal from these meat works on Lakes Creek Road. They may become a problem, but few people have mentioned it here locally. There was however one report of one croc being seen on a football oval on the South side.

So, while International media made bold headlines of the crocs, I might suggest that perhaps as few as a dozen people out of the 75,000 population here actually saw this crocodile, or for that fact any crocodiles at all.

The main media outlets here in Australia have also mentioned on more than one occasion the prevalence of snakes being washed down with the flood waters, and moving around near the city, and also in the flood waters as well. Australia has nearly all the top ten of the deadliest and most poisonous snakes on Planet Earth, and some of these are being washed down river with the flood, Black Snakes, and the deadlier Brown Snakes, of which there are many different species of those two main types I have mentioned.

So, while the Australian media made bold headlines about the snakes, I would suggest that perhaps as few as a hundred or so people out of the 75,000 population may have actually seen this ‘huge influx’ of snakes.

One thing that has barely been mentioned is the prevalence of one form of wild life that actually is causing a major problem.

These are what would be close to the tiniest animals in this flood.

They are called Sandflies or biting midges, or just midges. They are tiny blood sucking things, around the same size as a flea, and they are in almost plague proportions here now.

Sometimes, local residents who have lived her for long periods build up some sort of resistance to the bites, but others newer to the area or tourists tend to break out in sores following the bites, and I’m new here, only arriving in August just past.

So, while this has hardly garnered any comment in any section of the media at all, I would suggest that many thousands of that city population of 75,000 would actually be affected by this problem with the wild life, and perhaps even more than that.

They bite on the lower extremities, close to the ground, and in the main, below the knees. You don’t even know you’ve been bitten in the first place, they are so small, and you can’t remember being bitten because you rarely if ever feel it. Then, a couple of hours later, the itching starts, and this is where the real problem sets in. The scratching can cause sores, naturally, and the sores then ulcerate. Children, especially younger ones would be the most affected, because they will just keep scratching. The itching can last for days and even weeks, and the ugly sores can hang around for a long time, and they remain itchy for most of that time.

I visited our local Chemist when the problem came to me. It was a little embarrassing at first asking the young chemist about the problem, but she mentioned to me that just at the Chemist outlet where she works, they were getting anything up to 15 cases a day being seen to, mainly in the mornings, so this is not an isolated thing, as this has been going on now for almost two weeks, now that the rising flood has stirred them.

Mostly creams and antihistamines are used to ease the itching, but it still comes down to willpower.

Don’t scratch! Don’t scratch! Don’t scratch!

Oddly, my good lady wife recommended to me something for relief that has drifted into the background with modern medicine, when she recommended what is now ‘politely’ referred to as ‘an old wives tale’, the use of Peroxide and Calamine Lotion. (Yes, that awful looking pink stuff.)

I’m taking the antihistamine, but the Calamine Lotion is soothing for the itching, and I can put up with having pink coloured lower limbs. As well as that, a natural Australian remedy also helps out quite considerably, and that is Melalueca Oil, commonly referred to here as Tea Tree Oil. The oil is distilled from the leaves of the ‘Tea Tree’, an Australian Native tree, and is a wonderful and fairly well known natural remedy.

What that visit to the Chemist led to next was a visit to the Supermarket to get some personal insect repellent, the stuff you either just spray on your skin, roll it on, or apply as a cream. Normally, supermarkets would have plenty of them. However in the major supermarket I visited, they had two shelves of nearly 2 metres on each shelf with around a 12 to 15 different types of this repellent from a number of manufacturers. There was only one brand left, and of that one brand, only around six or seven bottles were left. As I reached for the bottle, my grand daughter said, “Uh, uh! Poppy, don’t get that one.” It would seem everyone had the same idea. Sold out completely. They were even sold out of that ‘old wives tale’ stuff, Peroxide, so obviously that was still working as it always had, and in the space alongside that, even the Calamine Lotion was in short supply as well, with only a couple of bottles of that left, so obviously, there must be a hell of a lot of ‘old wives’ in Rockhampton.

My problem with those sand flies looks to be under control right now, as long as I remember that ‘don’t scratch’ mantra.

So, in that title where I mentioned blood suckers, some people may have thought of me as ‘having a go’ at the media reporting of this flood, but in actual fact I was referring exactly to something that does indeed suck blood from you, those blood sucking midges, the sand flies.

However, something that intrigued me a little also concerned the Media. We all have seen movies about media front people, and more often than not, they bear out in fact, what some of those movies actually suggest in the form of comedy, you know, reading the information off the teleprompter positioned close to the camera as they speak directly to the lens and out at their viewers.  Now, I suppose it may seem a little disparaging of me to say that most of them will have forgotten what they have spoken about by the time the next show goes to air the next day. Background crews have done the research and fact checking, and have gone over in short precis what the ‘talking head’ will be saying to the camera lens, so that context looks right, and they sound like they know what they are talking about, if you get my drift here, reading from the teleprompter, rattling it off like they actually ‘know’ all this stuff for a fact.

Now, as I mentioned, those crews here set up at the flood marker, because that was the most visible thing about the flood.

Oddly, on one of the morning TV shows, they went to a lot of trouble to move away from the flood marker by some miles in fact, and relocate to someone’s back yard on the Southern side of the Barrage I mentioned on New Year’s Day is such detail, explaining exactly what it was, what it did, and some of the clever and careful engineering behind that Barrage. This would have entailed a lot of work to set up the OB unit, and the satellite uplink, and then set up in the back yard of this house for the live crosses with the image of the Barrage behind the announcer.

All this was for something you see once, and then it’s basically meaningless. However, the announcer detailed some of the information about the Barrage. Now I do not watch morning TV at all, but my young grand daughter visited that morning and she mentioned that the announcer was telling the viewers what I had earlier told her and her family when I visited them the day after I posted the article at our Blog site here. That announcer shall remain nameless here, and it would be unfair of me to mention her by name so I’ll just give her initials. The first initial is N, and the last initial is atalie.

I switched on the program, after it had already been to air for nearly an hour. The program had three more live crosses to the Barrage in the second hour of the Program, and lo and behold, some of the information was as detailed as I had already explained in that earlier Post.

Now I’m not ego inflated enough to think I was the only source of information on the subject, but some of what was said was indeed quite specific, and when I went looking, there was very little information I could locate with any search engine, and it just seemed odd for them to have gone to so much trouble to set up for something in a place that was not really as dramatic as that flood marker. I guess I could say I was lucky in some way to have gotten in first, and five days earlier, in the link to the following Post.

The Rockhampton Flood Crisis – The Fitzroy River Barrage

I took my images from the other side of the river, the North side, and access to that area was closed off earlier this week as water encroached into that viewing area and part the way up the access street there, so that area was closed off so the only way they could show it was to go to an awful lot of trouble, as some areas on that South side of the river where the OB had to set up were also cut to traffic. Intriguingly, that same night, last night, the National Broadcaster also did a live cross to the same area in that same backyard as I mentioned earlier, so I guess it really was interesting after all.

I’ve left the slide show for the bottom of the Post this time, so I can have the explanation for the images close to the slides themselves.

What needs to be kept in mind here is that I am an amateur, and I only have a small Kodak Digital camera with a 3.1 megapixel capability. I suppose an bigger camera may have given me better images to show you, but these are the best I have to show you.

Not far from the city is Mount Archer, and at the top is a wonderful short walking track with viewing areas of the city on that path, and these images were taken from there, well above the city. There is also a smaller area part way down from the summit where I took another set of images. I had to work on some of those images to show them at their best here.

With this slide show, you can pause the images by pressing the centre button, or for a closer look, just click on the small thumbnail icons I have included at the side of the text for each of them, and that image will open in a new and larger window for a more detailed viewing of that image.

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Image 1.

You can make out the river flowing through the centre of the city. At the left of the image under that overhanging branch is the most Southern of the road bridges over the river.
Count up three streets to the right and that’s the major road link bypass for Highway 1, The Bruce Highway, through the city. That next street to the right you see is in fact the rail line and its bridge.
Now see the lowest overhanging branch of the tree on the right where it reaches the river. Just to the left of that on the river you can just make out a grey line across the river. That’s the Barrage,
Just off to the right of centre screen in all that water there is the airport, and you can just make out the greyish line of the main runway just above and a little to the right of the long white building.

Image 2.

This second image is a little to the left of the first one.
All the flooding at the back of the city as you see it here is in the Yeppen flood plain, and flows into that area when the river changes direction back North to the the North of the city.
Interestingly, there was a break in the cloud in the far distance, and you can see as a result the two stacks of the Stanwell Power Plant in the distance with steam rising from them. That plant is a large scale coal fired power plant.

Image 3.

Again this is taken from the summit, looking a little further again to the left.
Centre screen on the river there and to the left is the suburb of Depot Hill, where all the homes are going under, around 450 of them now.
A little further back from there is the major area of that Yeppen flood plain.

Image 4.

This is again at the summit looking further off to the right.
See that downwards facing fork in the tree, the upside down Y on the overhanging branch.
Follow the right fork down and you see the curve in the main river where it turns back to the North, at the North of the city.
Almost at the far right of the image is where it turns back South and comes through the city.
That first curve North under the fork is where it all flows over the bank of the river and starts filling up the Yeppen flood plain.

Image 5.

Just down and back from the summit is another viewing area.
This shows the Southern curve in the river after it has passed through the city.
The water also flows out here as well, and as you can see, it then backs up from there back into the city as the river rises.
All the inundation of houses is in that area on the other side of the river you can see there.

Image 6.

This is the Panorama I explained above.

So, while that flood peak seems to be moving through the City, that flood marker has reached its maximum, and in reality is no longer the buzz story it was, as the media crews waited patiently for the marker to perhaps break 2 of those three flood records, that of 1991 and then the 1954 floods, while all the while residents of Rockhamton were praying it would just stop rising. Those records didn’t happen, thank the Lord, or “missed by that much”, as Maxwell Smart might say, and now the moment has passed, the media crews, their OB units, their helicopters, and their front persons have all gone back to the comfort of their main studios.

Meanwhile back here in Rockhampton, I was wondering just how many Chemists have treated bites from saltwater crocodiles, or even snake bites for that fact.

For an awful lot of people, it’s now a matter of ….. Don’t scratch! Don’t scratch. Don’t scratch.