Friday, April 10, 2009

February to March

I really don't know where to start. February and March were very emotional months for us. Emotional in a good and also a bad way. I think we felt every kind of emotion over these last few months. This is a huge post. I still have to add a few bits in between this.

Black Saturday -7th February 2009

I don't think we will ever recover emotionally from Black Saturday. One of the reasons I haven't blogged as it all just knocked me for a six emotionally.
Whilst on Black Saturday we were lucky enough not to have any large fires break out in our forest. It was a day spent preparing the outside of our property in case we weren't so lucky. We spent the day in total shock as Victoria was consumed with large fires that spread rapidly. 173 dead and 2000 odd homes lost.

Taken from the Herald Sun.

CONDITIONS for a perfect firestorm led to Australia's greatest natural disaster at the weekend. Drought, hurricane-force wind and record temperatures after a record heatwave combined to create the deadly Black Saturday.

The University of Melbourne's senior lecturer in fire ecology and management, Kevin Tolhurst, said conditions on Black Saturday were some of the worst the world had seen for a potential outbreak.
He said the fires were so hot the energy they released could have supplied Victoria with electricity for at least two years. Up to 80,000 kilowatts per metre of heat was expelled as the fires raged on Saturday.

Dr Tolhurst said this equalled about 500 atomic bombs landing on Hiroshima.
"Eyewitness accounts said they didn't see evidence of fire and then all of a sudden they felt the area around them was exploding," Dr Tolhurst said.

The unprecedented bushfires were so savage because of the previous week's heatwave (a week of high 40 degree temperatures). He said this sapped up the vegetation's moisture, making the land tinder dry. "What was quite unusual and unique about it was the fires took so readily and developed so quickly. The conditions were so dry the fuel ignited," Dr Tolhurst said. Department of Sustainability and Environment fire behaviour specialist Peter Billing said spot fires, travelling up to 15km from the fire front, rapidly accelerated the blaze. "Spotting defeats the control of the fire,' Mr Billing said. The front then fragmented, creating fingers and tongues of fire rapidly spreading up spurs and gullies. "Bits and pieces of a very ugly fire will go all over the place," he said. "The original fire, the parent fire, can fragment so it is not a clean edge and you cannot determine exactly where it is." He said prevailing wind, with gusts reaching hurricane force levels up to 120km/h, initially drove the fire. "But once it is established it becomes a monster of its own physics," he said. CSIRO senior fire researcher Andrew Sullivan said Victoria was ideally placed for bad fires because of its climate, vegetation, topography and the phenomenon of hot and dry wind from the continent's centre.

"The conditions on Saturday were typical of bad fire days like Black Friday in 1939 and Ash Wednesday in 1983," Mr Sullivan said. "Victoria is the perfect spot to have really bad fires."

View of Melbourne city from Kinglake.

So many towns have been completely burnt out. So many lives lost. The stories of survival and the witnesses stories during the fire are amazing. I still am at a loss of what to say. It was just so devastating.

Mum's Birthday

Mum turned 60 on February 14th. Dad decided to surprise Mum by flying me up for a long weekend. I left on Friday morning and Dad picked me up from the airport. It took us 4 hours to get from Brisbane airport to Toowoomba. Mad. The traffic and heavy rain was unbelievable.

I stayed at Donna and Justins place. Dylan thought it was pretty cool that Auntie Dawn slept in his room on the scary upper bunk. Dylan kept me awake a lot so we played games, read stories and enjoyed some early mornings together.

Saturday was Mum's birthday. Mum worked until after lunch so we ran around buying food and preparing all the salads etc for the bbq later that afternoon. Everyone arrived at the bbq except Tony and I. We walked in and Mum was stunned. Lots of tears and hugs. It was so nice to catch up with all the family friends that I haven't seen for years. I hadn't been back to Toowoomba for four years.

This is the first time in four years we have all been together.

My three beautiful nieces, Hailey, Courtny and Emily. Look how much they have all grown up.
My brother Tony and his beautiful girls.
Family photo. We haven't had one of these in four years. My brother hasn't changed since we were kids LOL Always hard to get everyone looking in the same direction.

Saturday night, Donna, Justin and I along with two of Donna's mates all went out nightclubbing. We went to a karoke bar and had a ball. Not much sleep that night. Poor Justin took all day Sunday to recover.

Sunday we went to Tony and Mim's for a yummy BBQ followed by dinner out at the golf club (hard to fit in a meal after the bbq but we all managed).
One of Tony's dogs Paris.

View from Tony's place.

Mum & Dad
Dylan loved playing in the sandpit.

Whilst up in Queensland I bought the first book of the Twilight series. On the way home I bought the second book. Let's say I was totally addicted from the first chapter and have since read all four books as well as the book about how the movie was made. Kady read them next followed by Dylan.

Monday 23rd February

Monday afternoon I was at work when I received a call to say we had a bushfire in our forest. Although it was still a distance away after the recent events no one was taking any chances. Everyone quickly put the fire tree into effect and began notifying the next person on the list. We had planned on having a practice run this week never imagining we would have a real life practice.

The fire began in Hogan's Road near Daylesford and with high winds we were in direct line of the fire. We all raced home and we quickly began loading the car with all our valuables, photos and items we didn't want to lose. It was quite stressful trying to remember everything that we needed or wanted to packed. A little different from the few weeks before when Black Saturday evacuee's didn't even get time to take a single thing.

We were lucky when later in the evening the wind changed and was pushing the fire towards Trentham and Newbury. We had Dylan with us as Simon and Debbie were fighting the fire. At about 8.30 embers started falling on Newbury and Trentham. It was at this stage we decided to evacuate rather than spending the night worrying about embers or the wind changing back towards us. Most on our estate evacuated as well. As we only have the one road through we thought it was safer. Memories of Black Saturday were in the forefront of our minds. Tuesday night we returned home. I was glad we had left though as we wouldn't of had any sleep.

Friday 27th

was forecast as an extreme fire danger day. There were many rumours circulating and someone had falsely been door knocking saying they were from the CFA so a community meeting was held on the Thursday night put together by the CFA, the Police, the shire council and a few others. By this stage we had been notifyed by the schools to say that the school would be closed as it was unsafe for the kids to attend with the risk of another day like Black Saturday.

We attended the community meeting. We were told that all children must be evacuated and we were only to stay if we could defend our homes. We don't have any fire fighting equipment and had never planned to stay and defend our house so we left straight after the meeting and didn't come back home till very late Saturday night. Two road blocks were put in place. One at the base of the hill and one near our estate to prevent people looting our houses.

The line of cars leaving that night was incredible. Trailers filled with everything imaginable. We even saw fridges and even a trampoline. It was a very stressful time not knowing if we would have a house to return too.

Luckily enough the weather didn't get as bad as predicted and Saturday night we returned home safely.

We spent the weekend tidying up even more around the house. The coming Tuesday was predicted to be another Black Saturday and was going to be more extreme than the Friday just gone. By this stage we were tired and emotionally drained. I had kept the cars packed with everything and over the past week added even more items as I thought about them.

Monday we were notified to evacuate Monday night and told not to leave it till Tuesday morning. They were worried trees in the forest would fall as winds like on Black Saturday were predicted and we wouldn't be able to get out. The school told us that they would be closed. In fact over 300 schools/kinders closed. Kady's school was open as it was in town and not under threat. We decided to keep her home as we wanted to all stay together so Kady had the day off on the Tuesday.

We received a text message sent out to millions of Victorians and Tasmanians from the Victorian Police saying the following:

Extreme weather in Vic expected Monday night & Tuesday. High wind and fire risk. Listen to local ABC Radio for emergency updates.

The government also cancelled all school camps so a weeks worth of work was also lost as we had a full week of camps. I wouldn't want my kids camping near the fires.

I think by this stage many people thought the government, police, CFA were crying wolf and making out the day would be something it wouldn't be. We weren't going to take any chances. A house can be replaced. Our lives can't. We had the Ballarat ABC and the CFA scanner going 24/7 by this stage. We wanted to know as fast as possible what was happening around us. Fires were burning all over Victoria. The fire in our forest was contained but not under control.

Monday night we had evacuated by 5 pm. Once again the traffic leaving our area was amazing. Road blocks were once again put in place. The winds began on Monday night and I was so glad were we safe out of the forest. We didn't return home until very late Wednesday night. It was hard knowing when to return.

Here are some images of an area that was burnt near Daylesford. We were lucky that no properties all lives were lost in the Wombat fires. The CFA did an amazing job.

Daylesford water supply. The banks were lined with straw bays to prevent the ash contaminating the water.

Sunday 1st of March we had a fireguard meeting. We have set up a small fireguard with about ten families involved. Much easier to maintain and notify people.

March saw me turning 40. An age I didn't always think I was going to make at one stage. We decided to cater for it ourselves and we ended up with close to 80 people. J and I cooked finger foods, roasts, potatoes, corn, peas and lots of salads and desserts. Friends and family also bought lots of yummy food. Friday morning prior to the big day I was doing housework and both girls were home from school. Leah told me someone had pulled up in a car beside the house. We went out on the back veranda to see who it was. Imagine my surprise when I saw Mum, Dad, Donna and Dylan coming towards me. They had flown down for my birthday and were staying nearly a week. I was pretty speechless that EVERYONE knew except the girls and I.

We had a great night at the party. So good getting together with family and friends. My fav thing to do. The night ended up being freezing cold. The first cold day in a long long time with lots of rain. Actually the most rain we had had in about 4 months.

For a while I had been looking around for a Golden Retriever or Labrador puppy. Debbie (Dylan's Mum) had rang me the afternoon of my party to tell me she had found a retriever the colour I wanted. She went across to look at the pups for me and bought home my new pup. Love at first sight. Debbie took her home for the first night so she wasn't scared with all the people at the party etc

Meet Bella. She's nearly 8 weeks old here (pics taken the day after we got her).

Here is Bella two weeks later.

We had a great time with Mum, Dad, Donna and Dylan down from Queensland. I don't think I have ever eaten out so much.

My actual birthday was Sunday. Spent the day recovering from the previous late night. Mum, Dad, Donna and Dylan came over for most of the day. They left to go out for dinner and Debbie and Dylan (Kady's boyfriend) joined us to eat the mountain of leftovers. A nice relaxing day.

Whilst the family were down we went to Torquay, Geelong, Castlemaine, Daylesford, Melton and a few other places.

Some pics of our days.

21st March

Jason, Leah and I attended our first karate tournament. Lots of fun to watch.

A mammoth post.Congrats if you read through all of this. More for my memories than anything else. Click on pics to enlarge.


Ann Lederhose said...

Dawn, congratulations on turning 40. I had tears in my eyes as I was reading about your mum and dad surprising you.

What a huge couple of months you've had. I'm so happy that you and your family are all safe, well and healthy.

Keep taking care of you

Ann xx

Jude said...

Good to have you back posting again Dawn...lets hope the next few months are quieter

Anonymous said...

What a post Dawn, got very teary reding it, dont know about the look on my face when u showed up, the look on ur face was pricless lol

rose said...

hi dawn loved reading your update xxlovely pictures xx

Liz said...

great pics Dawn

congrats on turning 40

I can't imagine how scarey the it would have been with the fire so close to your home..thankfully you guys are safe.

Watching the devestation on tv and in the papers was ...beyond words and as for the idiot looters..what scum.

Lyn Dwyer said...

Lovely to see all the family pics Dawn.......and so nice to see your mum and dad again at your 40th!