OVER THE TOP: Awoonga Dam as it spilled over last year when the water level was about 5.5m over the spillway.
OVER THE TOP: Awoonga Dam as it spilled over last year when the water level was about 5.5m over the spillway. David Sparkes

'DEVASTATING': Disaster victims hold breath at January forecast

WITH the wet season well and truly upon us, Gladstone Region residents living in areas prone to floods and cyclones are anxiously waiting to see what kind of weather January will bring.

Nagoorin local Frances Schulze is no stranger to the damaging conditions January can bring.

She said ex-tropical cyclone Debbie's wrath last March prompted a wave of floods, burying her fence- line and vegie patch.

 

Mrs Schulze said when the floods came, her entire vegie patch (pictured) was under water.
Mrs Schulze said when the floods came, her entire vegie patch (pictured) was under water. Frances Schulze

"I'm absolutely hoping my damnedest we don't get a flood this year," she said.

My vegie patch is looking pretty good right now, finally after months of work, and I don't know if I'd have the heart to restart it if it washes away again.

Last year, a large portion of the Schulzes' seven hectare property became inundated with floodwaters, plunging Mrs Schulze's hard work under metres of water.

"It's frustrating work. It took us four to six weeks to dig all the bits and pieces of our fence out of the rubble and we're still finding some interesting stuff," she said.

"It takes months and months to repair and clean everything up because it's just us two pensioners."

Some of the bizarre items that have washed down to the Schulzes' property include a bathtub, a cement mixer, a statue of an American Indian, a urinal and wheelbarrows.

"It's absolutely hilarious what we find, but the cyclones just devastate the valley," Mrs Schulze said.

 

SPILL: Awoonga Dam continued to spill over on Monday January 28. The level peaked the day before at 8.3 metres over the spillway. At the time of this photo, the water level was about 5.5 metres over the spillway.
SPILL: Awoonga Dam continued to spill over on Monday January 28. The level peaked the day before at 8.3 metres over the spillway. At the time of this photo, the water level was about 5.5 metres over the spillway. David Sparkes

Last October, Awoonga Dam spilled over, causing a domino effect of floods that either isolated residents, trapping them on their own islands of dry land, or swamped their homes.

"Once it's all over, you've got to hunt for the washed-away fences and the steel posts, dig them all out of the debris, untangle them all and then somehow drag them back to where they used to stand ... Some end up looking like pretzels," Mrs Schulze recalled.

It's a hell of a mess.

But what the Boyne Valley and other disaster-prone areas in the region can expect this month is still uncertain, with the Bureau of Meteorology able to predict the chance of a higher-than-average rainfall but not the actual amount of rain people should expect.

According to the BoM, the eastern region has a 54 per cent chance of more tropical cyclones than the yearly average of four.

A similar outcome has been predicted for rainfall this month, with a 56 per cent chance Gladstone, Boyne Valley and Seventeen Seventy will exceed their median January rainfalls.

 

HOPEFUL: Seasoned flood victim Frances Schulze.
HOPEFUL: Seasoned flood victim Frances Schulze. Frances Schulze

"There's three ways to get out, but when Nelly Simpson Rd is under, Colloseaum is over, and creek crossings are washed away, you can't get out," Mrs Schulze said.

"But if you live in the bush like us you don't depend on going to the shops each day.

"You've got a generator, food and chooks. And if we run out of bread my husband actually loves it because then I make fried scones instead," she laughed.

That doesn't mean I'm not desperate to see the vegies survive though.



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