Tuesday, January 29, 2013

We had weather

What's left of tropical cyclone Oswald moved down from Queensland and reached the Sydney area overnight.

It's been easing off as it's moved south so we had nothing like the wild weather they've had in Queensland and northern NSW.

But, after six months of drought we've had plenty of rain over the past three days, 198mm overnight here on the Central Coast.

There were huge seas too, confirmed by a stroll along Terrigal beach this morrning.

It normally looks like this - Australia Day, just three days ago:

It looked very different this morning:

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Land of extremes

We're still in a drought situation here on the NSW Central Coast with very little rain for about five months now.  My neighbour tells me that since the beginning of spring his rain gauge has registered less than 100mm.

The garden certainly reflects that figure. The ground's rock hard, the plants are struggling, even the drought-resistant ones.

But up in central Queensland they're in flood crisis again, with evacuations now under way as dams are overflowing. It's the fall-out from tropical cyclone Oswald.

Photo. Peter Wallis. Brisbane Courier Mail

Several areas have had well over 300mm of rain in 24 hours, that's a foot in the old measure. Gladstone seems to be the worst hit so far, with an estimate of 700mm, or about twenty-eight inches, of rain in four days.

Swiftwater rescue teams have so far carried out twenty recuses, most of people trapped in or on their cars. Brisbane Channel 10 TV has footage of a  dramatic rescue, which so nearly had a fatal outcome.

South-east Queensland is facing a drenching with 300mm of rain due over the next couple of days. The weather is slowly moving south and we're forecast to have rain early next week.

Australia Day at The Haven

Friday, January 25, 2013

Monday, January 21, 2013

Lifeguard towers at last

Some six years ago I had a bit of a rant about councils spending millions of our dollars on surf clubs which are a few hundred metres from each other.

As I said then, I have no quarrel with surf clubs and the need for them. What I object to is our taxes building unnecessary duplicate clubhouses on one stretch of beach.

I said then that watchtowers, equipped and serviced from one clubhouse, were what we need.

Now the Sydney Morning Herald reports that it's beginning to happen, with Bondi and Bronte beaches  having portable lifeguard towers.

Importantly, they can be moved according to conditions and events. They'll be equipped with oxygen, first aid kits and defibrillators.

They cost $25,000 each - much less money for a much better outcome.

But for this area at least, it's too late. Our council has already spent millions of our dollars on new clubhouses.

Earlier post is here.

Sydney Morning Herald story.

Friday, January 18, 2013

"Suspended canal"

On my last visit to Dubai before Christmas an announcement was made which resolved a major development problem - completion of the Dubai Creek extension.

This is Dubai Creek, which runs through the centre of the city:

In fact it's an inlet from the Gulf which winds its way through the old city and then after about seven kilometres simply sinks into the desert.

Or, it did.

It's been extended many kilometres and new developments, such as Festival City, Business Bay have been built on the new section.

The plan was to take it in a giant loop to rejoin the Gulf in Jumeirah, some kilometres from the city.

But work stopped two kilometres from where it was to rejoin the Gulf. The problem was the final section had to cross three major roads including the main freeway, Sheikh Zayed Road, which is a twelve-lane dual carriageway. It also had to somehow cross the new Metro line which runs parallel to Sheikh Zayed Road.

Elevated section of Dubai Metro alongside Sheikh Zayed Road.

The answer they've come up with is what they call "a suspended canal" - in other words, an aquaduct.
They plan to take the last two kilometres over all the stuff that's in the way.

Video accompanying the news shows the Falkirk Wheel in Scotland, so the assumption is that something similar will be built in Dubai.

 Image by RMJM on www.glasgowarchitecture.co.uk 

They're under starters orders too. The Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum told the people involved that: "the canal project must see the light in two years time from the time of its execution and all the parties in charge of the project must coordinate and cooperate amongst each other to reach their goals without delays".

Cost is quoted as over AED1.5 billion,  which is about $400 million.

I think it's going to be another spectacular development to add to the many others Dubai has come up with.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Homes being lost to fire

Over forty celcius one day, twenty-four degrees the next.

We even had some rain yesterday evening, not a lot but the garden really needed it. After two very wet years we've now had four or five drought months.

A land of extremes.

There was thunder and lighning with the rain we had here but many places had the thunderstorm without rain. That meant lighning strikes on tinder dry bush.

The RFS says forty new fires were started by lightning strikes, with NSW now having a hundred and seventy fires burning. Fifty are uncontained.

One of the worst is near Coonabarabran in the north of the state. The firefront is one hundred kilometres wide, it's burnt out over 40,000 hectares so far and is destroying homes.

So far, thirty-three homes have been destroyed and thousands of animals killed, livestock and native animals alike. About a hundred people have evacuated but thankfully no-one has lost their life.

Photo Mark Barrow. Sydney Morning Herald

This photo was taken by Mark Barrow who was on his way to work yesterday, saw the fire, took the photo and wisely got the hell out of there.

Look at the size of the fire compared to the house it's bearing down on!

The RFS is saying it's the most ferocious fire seen in NSW for many years. The smoke was rising 14 kilometres into the air and embers were starting fires up to 5km ahead of the main blaze.

A local mayor has just been on TV saying he flew over the affected area and saw totally destroyed farms with all the animals dead. He said he saw piles of kangaroos dead on roads. They'd obviously tried to escape down the roads but the fire was on both sides and moving so fast they didn't stand a chance.

The RFS still has the fire listed as out of control.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

The whole of NSW on fire alert

Statewide Total Fire Ban declared for today, Tuesday 8 January 2013

Catastrophic Fire Danger for Illawarra/Shoalhaven and Southern Ranges.

Emergency Alert telephone warnings have been sent to people in the above areas. This is not an evacuation order.

That's the headline fron the Rural Fire Service website.

The state is said to be facing its worst-ever bushfire conditions, and it certainly has that feel about it.

While temperature is up in the forties celcius, humidity is way down at eleven percent and winds up to 80kph gusting about all over the place. Codnditions cover all the official categories from catastrophic down. Five areas are now designated as catastrophic.

Sydney is currently (at 1pm) 40C so the forecast of 43C could easily be reached in the hottest part of the day which is usually atround 3pm.

We have over a hundred and thirty fires burning, forty uncontained.

The worst hit so far is the southern part of the state, which has fires now threatening properties and people being evacuated. Some have left leaving too late and as they have no way out the RFS is telling them to 'shelter in place'.

Two thousand firefighters are currently fighting the fires, and thousands more are on standby, concentrating on the south. Victorian crews have moved up to the border and will replace our crews if they have to move north.

The Hume Highway is closed because of an out of control fire and other roads such as the Princes Highway are being affected by smoke.

A southerly change is on the way but with it are winds of up to 100kph and that could make the fires even worse, turning them back into so-far untouched areas. The southerly will hit most places after dark, when airborne water bombing is impossible so it will be leave firefighters with no support from the air.

BBC local radio is doing a great job with updates every fifteen minutes, interviews with fire and emergency officers, chats with people in various areas to get up-to-the-minute reports.

RFS website

Sunday, January 06, 2013

The Russians are here

One big change in Dubai that's becoming increasingly apparent is the number of Russians in the city. An increasing number are working here and even more are visiting as tourists -they seem to be the majority of guests in the hotels we've been into over the past couple of weeks.

I've been seeing more and more signs and menus in Russian:

It's obviously a reflection of their numbers and spending power.

And so it's back to Oz. Flying out in the early hours of tomorrow morning and due to land in Sydney soon after 10pm. The hot weather covering the country was forecast to give Sydney a miss but I see from the latest reports that's been revised. Our home town will reach 43C on Tuesday they're now saying, twenty degrees hotter than today here in Dubai Marina.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

A breed apart

As I've observed many times, the bureaucratic mind works differently from the rest of us.

Another example this morning, from DEWA, Dubai Electricty & Water Authority, because the sub-station in our building apparently needed servicing.

It would take four hours during which we would have no water and no electricity.

You and I would have worked out the least disruptive time to schedule the work. But then we're not bureaucrats.

They scheduled it for today, Saturday, from 7 to 11am.

Saturday. Weekend. When most people are actually at home.

Seven to eleven in the morning, when most people are getting up, wanting to shower, shave, make coffee, feed the kids...

Well done guys, you're keeping the bureaucratic way alive and well.

Tassie ablaze

Our island state of Tasmania is struggling with at least twenty-five bushfires in record hot conditions. Hobart has had its hottest day since records began, reaching 41.8C.

With conditions at the official catastrophic level the town of Dunalley has lost up to eighty properties including homes, shops and a school.

A man is feared dead after he was last seen by a fire crew fighting to save his house as they were forced to shelter in their vehicle when the fire swept over them.

Property has been destroyed in other towns, evacuation orders have been issued, hundreds of people are in refuge centres, others have been, or are waiting to be, rescued by boat.

The Tasmania Fire Service website lists three Emergency Warning incidents, which means residents need to take immediate action because any delay may put lives in danger. The Fire Service has nearly fifty vehicles in the three locations.

It's not just Tassie that has the hot weather though. While Sydney's coastal areas are missing it with temps only in the high twenties - although thirty-five forecast for Tuesday, my first day back - we have a heatwave over most of the continent.

Most state capitals have nearly forty celcius forecast for the next few days and there's even a suggestion that the country's highest-ever temp. (50.7 degrees at Oodnadatta Airport in South Australia in January 1960) might go.

Tasmania Fire Service website

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Paperwork & bureaucrats

Computers were going to bring us a paperless society it was confidently stated.

What's actually happened is that more paper than ever is required to go alongside computerisation.

Bureaucracy loves it.

I had a good example today at Etisalat, doing a final bit of stuff with my Dubai mobile phone.

Queued at the Information counter, explained what I wanted to do and was given two forms to complete, told to make photocopies of my passport and, inexplicably, my credit card, and was given a numbered ticket.

Filled in the form, made the photocopy and sat around waiting for my number to be called. Did as the computerised voice told me and went to Counter 7.

Told the clerk what I wanted, but that was done at Counter 10 he told me.

Wandered to Counter 10, which was busy so I waited for them to finish.

Told the clerk what I wanted and he set about typing stuff into his computer. Then he said there was a refund to come, so I should go back to Information and get a form.

More paper.

Information gave me two forms, asked if I wanted the refund in cash or transferred to my account. I thought cash would be quick and easy so I opted for that. I got another numbered ticket.

Sat and waited.

The lady at the counter I was called to gave me yet another form...and told me that they didn't have cash available, so I changed to direct transfer.

She also said I needed to make another photocopy of my passport.

Did all that, filled in all the forms, handed over the piles of paper and was eventually told it was done.

All up, five forms, three photocopies and just over two hours.

Everything was on the computers but they do love their paperwork!