Emergency situations can be difficult to anticipate. Even when you are expecting something, you may not have all the information you need to make an informed decision. In the south of Tasmania this week we have had some wild weather. On Wednesday we had a serious amount of snow covering most of the areas above 200m (I even had snow at my house, which is unusual). We had sever wind which had injured people and caused a lot of damage on Thursday. Today, Friday, we have floods. There were some warnings that there could be some flooded roads, and to check the applicable websites. So, this morning (before I left for work) I dutifully checked the websites… they didn’t mention anything too serious about the flooding. The river at the Huonville bridge was high, yet it didn’t say there were issues. I also checked the local Police website… all clear there. So I left for work around 6am. I was careful on the roads, yet there was nothing really to worry about. No mini-rivers running across the road like last night, no large sections of water.
This all changed as I approached the Huonville bridge. Due to the dark, I couldn’t see much more than a dozen flashing lights in Huonville. I could see headlights beaming light everywhere, and traffic was jammed on the bridge. The side roads were closed (which I knew would be the case from the weather website), yet nothing of note. I was behind a truck, so I couldn’t see anything ahead of me as I stopped on the bridge. I had to wait for a couple of minutes before my lane was allowed to move forward. They seemed to be letting through each side of the road, one side at a time. I kept looking around for someone to ask, or a sign to tell me what was happening… yet nothing was there. As I edged forward I came closer to the service station and I could see a huge amount of water flowing through there, yet no one was making a big deal of it, so I (stupidly) crept forward. I finally saw a man standing on the road, which I could see now (or the small part I could see due to the darkness and the truck blocking the way) was covered in water. He was standing in ankle deep water, so nothing too serious, yet before I could ask a question he waved me forward. Obviously I should keep moving.
I drove onwards behind the truck for a couple of seconds and then I realised the depth of the situation… I was driving in deep water! My car was struggling to make it. I could hear my exhaust spluttering, so the water must be deep enough to cover that. There were people on the sides, spectating on the traffic. I am sure a few of them pointed at me. The little car was floundering, yet I had to make it through the flood waters. I was looking around, trying to figure out the situation. These seemed to be deeper sections, which the truck easily drove through, and I had to avoid. I was desperately trying to work out where I could pull over to stop, yet all I could really do was drive on. I think the truck in front of me ploughed some of the water from the road… making it a little easier for me. After a couple of dozen seconds I made it through. I had to stop to get some petrol, and it was as I slowed down that I noticed the car was making some weird noises, especially when I braked. The breaks didn’t feel right.
I kept on driving after fueling up. Checking the breaks, till they eventually started sounding better. Apparently just after I made it through, the bridge closed… I really should have slept in a little this morning… I could have had a day at home. Six hours later, the road alerts have been removed, so the road is safe for traffic.
Did I learn anything? Yes, I learned not to rely on the government (yes, I should already knew that)…. I shouldn’t trust their websites, I shouldn’t have confidence in SES workers judgements. I really shouldn’t have crossed the bridge…. And I wouldn’t have if I knew what the situation was in Huonville. Next time, I will have to be more aware of my circumstances and make an assessment for myself. All my preps were not going to be much use if my car was stuck in high water.