Coulton's Country: Marcia's devastation

Who would have predicted three major floods in five years?

MY first blog for this year was meant to go along the lines of welcoming everyone back to Coulton’s Country and to share with you some of my favourite pictures from the first month back at work for 2015.

That all changed when Cyclone Marcia “graced our shores” with her destructive winds and flash flooding. I did not expect to be covering yet another flood, only weeks into starting another new year. Three major floods in five years (all around the same months too) seems to becoming the new norm.

The Burnett River flooded again this year due to Cycone Marcia, with it peaking at Eidsvold on Sunday night, February 22. Click on the images throughout the story to view a photo gallery.

Who would have predicted three major floods in five years? What ever happened to these things only happening “once every hundred years.” My heart broke when I heard people were losing everything for the third time in a row. For someone who tries to look at everything in a positive light, I’m struggling with this one and wondering why.

When Cyclone Marcia was wreaking havoc off the coast of Queensland all I could think about was ‘Marsha! Marsha! Marsha!’ and wondering what she had planned for us. At this stage I was still in Rockhampton and was heading towards Eidsvold, through Biloela and Monto. Then at the end of the week, when the reality of how serious the matter was got my attention, I started to worry about my friends in Yeppoon, my friends and work colleagues in and around Rockhampton and people in the direct path of where “Marsha” was headed.

Thankfully everyone I know is ok and has received only minor damage to their properties. However, emotionally they say it was the scariest thing they have witnessed or been a part of.

Lindsay Penney, Lindana Bazadais, Mulgildie, and his father Alan Penney, Jenalan Bazadais, Mulgildie, inspect one of many gates for damage after the flood waters receded on their properties.

On Monday after the cyclone had run its course I packed my bags and headed to Mundubbera. From there I headed to Monto to catch up with a few locals and see through my own lens the damage that had been done.

At one stage farmers around Monto thought they had been forgotten and all the focus was on places like Yeppoon, Rockhampton and the Sunshine Coast. One person I spoke to shone a different light on the matter by saying that many people who have jobs are able to get up and go back to work after a natural disaster strikes. At the end of the week (or month) they get paid and have money coming in again and this takes many of the added pressures and strain off the situation.

The force of the flood waters moved many objects and lodged a variety of different things into trees along the banks of the Three Moon Creek.

However for people on the land this is not the case. They live where they work and have to wait until they can get another crop in, then wait six to nine months before they get paid again. This includes graziers and dairy farmers who have to plant crops so they can feed their stock and take the added pressures off from hand-feeding. Between planting, waiting for the crops to grow and harvest/feeding time, farmers have to get in and get all the damage caused by the natural disasters fixed. Whether it be taking hay out of sheds (so that the smouldering bales do not catch on fire and burn the shed down) or fixing fences, repairing pumps and irrigation systems, or cleaning up paddocks of tree trunks and other debris, they have added work and pressures to get everything done.

Dairy farmers Leesa Ison and Alan Little (pictured) in partnership with her parents, Max and Sue Ison, Black & Gold Dairies, Monto, will be hand feeding their dairy cows for many months to come. Until once again they can place the cattle on oats and rye grass, sadly they lost all their feed during the flood.

With so much devastation around there seems to be a great deal of determination as well. The ability to dust one’s self off and get on with the job is what so many Queenslanders seem to be able to achieve. Though while I write those words and remember the people I met around Monto, I would like to acknowledge the people who are going through hell emotionally, financially and mentally too. Not everyone is coping, they may be putting on a brave face but stopping and asking them “R U Ok?” is important.

Logs, branches and other debris that was washed up on Russ and Dieta Salisbury's property at Monto. It was an incredible sight. They said this was good compared to the 2013 floods when all that debris was strewn across their paddocks.

I have heard story’s and listened to the radio over the past week, of people’s anguish and heartbreak about whether they will be able to continue or not. Whether they will have to sell because they cannot afford to rebuild or they do not have the energy or drive to get up, dust themselves off and do it all over again. For these people my heart breaks and I wish there was something that could be done to help ease their pain.

Living on the land is a way of life, a passion, a lifestyle that is in your blood. Natural disasters happen and they are a part of life. But losing everything you own three times in five years? That’s just not fair. I hope someone who can make a difference can make a big impact and help these devastated communities sooner rather than later.

Until next time... Happy Snapping.

Coultons CountryQueensland Country Life photographer Sarah Coulton shows you a glimpse of rural Queensland from behind the lens.


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