Obscure Box

Thoughts from inside the obscure box


November 18, 2008

The day King Kong visited my suburb

Posted by : Michael Lund
Filed under : Media

Digital journalism needs power and a means of communication which is why almost 48 hours after the event I am finally able to say I was in The Gap when the worst storm in years hit our house.

We were too busy bucketing water away from the rear of our home, as even more water poured through the doors, to notice the terrifying green sky people have commented on.

The hail lashed the side of the house, and me, with such a force it tore giant palm fronds in half and hurled them across our garden and onto a neighbour's roof. One pierced the front lawn leaving hole about 10cm deep.

How they missed smashing the windows of our house of bringing down power and other overhead cables is a mystery.

After four hours constant bucketing and mopping with towels the water level inside slowly dropped from about 7cm deep to 6cm, 5cm, 4cm, 3cm, 2cm, 1cm but how long did it take to reach tile level.

The water seemed to pool and spread around the floor and as fast as you thought you'd tackled one section, a glance away and suddenly more water arrived to wet the semi-dry spot.

It was all done by candle and torchlight, the mains power long gone.

The torrential rain gave way to a relentless drizzle and we eventually hit the mattress exhausted, but relieved we had managed to deal with the worst nature could throw at us.

We had survived.

The next morning it was still raining and alerted by the radio to greater damage elsewhere in the suburb we ventured out to see what had happened.

At first we said we'd never seen anything like it. But we have, in countless disaster movies and in news coverage of cyclone and storm damage places elsewhere.

But in The Gap?

In parts it looked like an angry King Kong had ploughed his way through the suburb uprooting some giant trees and tossing them aside, snapping others off at half their length and spreading them about the neighbourhood.

Power cables sagged under the weight of many fallen trees, parts of roofing and decking were spread across roads and gardens. A portaloo had been tossed across a road and smashed to pieces.

We soon realised we were the lucky ones. Some people had lost their homes, others their cars. Thankfully not a single life was lost in the suburb. (One man died elsewhere, apparently taking photographs in a storm water drain.)

The buzz of chainsaws was joined by the sound of news helicopters hovering over head as the clean up and the explanation of what had happened began.

Local news was slow at first but the coverage soon escalated and the story even reached overseas, including the BBC's "Brisbane storm worst in 25 years " and the UK's Daily Mail's "It was like a bomb going off: Killer storm leaves trail of destruction in Australia".

Bloomberg was in on the act with "Queensland Storms Cut Power to 230,000 Homes" and the Press Association with "Deadly storms batter east Australia".

As a journalist I could do nothing but attempt to clean up our house and garden, and prepare for more storms with the Bureau of Meteorology warnings of further downpours. Sometimes the personal story is more important.

At a local level any digital journalism was impossible. No power, no cable, no mobile coverage, no alternative way of connecting online meant even the loudest twitter was silenced.

What did keep us in contact with events was a simple battery operated radio.

It wasn't perfect, much of the airwaves during the early stages of the unfolding disaster were taken up with rugby league coverage, classic hits or some other pre-programmed programming for a Sunday night.

By morning the live radio was on top of things and kept us informed and up-to-date.

But for those who tout the wonders of "digital journalism saves the world", while it may have kept those outside the disaster area informed, it did nothing for those inside.

We were told the television pictures were stunning. I'm sure they were but we saw not a pixel.

Later the next day we met a media colleague who'd just ventured out to buy a wind-up radio/torch. Now there's a clever idea.

Shame you can't get a wind-up computer with satellite connection, then digital journalism would be a challenge to live radio in any disaster zone.

Until then, we'll be keeping the battery operated radio in pride of place for any future events should Kong decided to revisit our suburb.


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All thoughts and comments here are the honestly held personal opinion of Michael Lund and are based on the information available at the time of publication.

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