The unprecedented Australian weather that I was not prepared for
I would have never expected to experience extreme drought, bushfires, floods and especially not COVID-19 all in the span of three years. Growing up in Hawaii, I have been faced with different natural disasters such as hurricanes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. Extreme bushfires and floods was a whole new realm and something I wasn’t quite prepared for. Australia is a beautiful and wild country but the weather patterns can be a challenge and requires preparation for the different seasons.
Drought and Bushfires
In 2019, after six years living in Australia, I experienced the first major drought and bushfire event in my lifetime. I watched as the NSW state was set on fire and the devastation was unprecedented. Bushfires surrounded our town, our home, our country. The fires could be seen from space and the air was filled with dense smoke for many, many months.
At the worst point the sky turned red for a few days straight, due to the intensity of smoke in the air and the sun attempting to shine through it. This was a scary time but also a time of community spirit and connecting with neighbors like you never have before. Our neighborhood Facebook group had everyone looking out for each other, telling others when the fire was close on one side of the estate to the other. Telling others if it was safe to get out or not. Many roads were closed and many areas evacuated when the uncontrollable force of nature rolled through the country.
This was our first lockdown. We stayed inside as much as possible for over a month. The air quality at one point was said to be the worst in the world. Amazingly, through it all, the number of homes lost were minimal due to the heroic firefighters, considering over 17 million hectares of land had been burned across Australia.
Now this is something I don’t quite understand… Most of these firefighters are VOLUNTEERS. They don’t get paid, they work in other professions but in times of need they get out and risk their lives. Volunteers go through the same training as a career Firefighter before being able to go out into the field. NSW has the world’s largest volunteer fire services and cover approximately 95% of the state. In the 2019-20 period, it was reported that there were a total of 152,798 volunteer firefighters deployed in Australia.
When COVID-19 hit Australia, like much of the rest of the world, people panicked, toilet paper, canned goods, pastas and basically the rest of the supermarket shelves were laid bare. The government fumbled and lacked clear decision-making. The media terrorized and terrified everyone with reports of death and despair.
This was lockdown #2 for us. I was laid off of my job, we were terrified to leave the house, schools shut down, the whole world seemed to stop. This pandemic has changed our world completely and it will never be quite the same again.
Now I must say, I feel very fortunate to be in Australia during the pandemic. While at the start of the COVID spread, there were some small outbreaks, overall the spread has been extremely minimal and we were able to maintain a fairly ‘normal’ way of life after the initial shutdown period.
Australia and China trade relations deteriorated due to the global enquiry regarding COVID-19. Other than ensuring your purchases are made locally (something I strongly believe in anyway) the effects felt at a personal level were quite minimal. While China has restricted the number of Australian imports into their country, there seems to be enough demand in new markets for the goods.
Things come in three’s as the old saying goes. In March 2021 we were again hit by an unprecedented natural disaster. Some areas received over 400 millimeters of rain in a day, and lasted over a week. The rivers filled up and the flood waters rushed down river taking out anything in its path. It was fast and furious, and we were not prepared for it. Communities were isolated; houses were inundated; businesses were destroyed. The massive clean-up efforts took many, many months and some areas and businesses never fully recovered. Many roadways were destroyed and in our town the amount of waste collected exceeded the annual collection amount.
But again, the community banded together and helped each other out. Disasters bring out the best and worst in all of us. Its amazing to see the resilience of a community hit over and over again and still looking to the future.
Takeaways of surviving drought, bushfires, COVID-19 and floods
I’m proud and fortunate to live in a resilient community with the resources to survive these disasters. I know many people in other countries would not be so fortunate if they faced the same natural events.
Always have a bushfire and survival plan ready. There are many great resources from the NSW Rural Fire Service available here.
It is important to support and receive support from your neighbors if you are lucky to have them. Don’t give up hope and keep pushing forward towards tomorrow. Sometimes you just need to take one day, one hour, one moment at a time and that’s ok.