'Biblical' floods contain hidden menace

Wednesday 05th Jan 2011 by theWeather Club

There are floods, and then there are floods. Here in the UK we have got used to the seeing ‘one in 100 year flood’ with such regularity that the designation may need to be revisited. In places from Cornwall to Cumbria locals have had to suffer the devastating and occasionally tragic results of serious flooding in recent times, so their hearts will be going out to those in Queensland enduring what has been called a ‘biblical’ flood.

In keeping with this Old Testament allusion, the flooding in Australia’s ‘Sunshine State’ has come with an added menace that the victims of UK floods would only ever have nightmares about. Snakes. Lots and lots of snakes. One local resident explained the arrival of the snakes has been an unwelcome, but not unexpected, event. He told local reporters that there had been plagues of frogs and mice in the area since the waters began rising. So everybody knew that the snakes would not be far behind, adding that he was personally seeing up to 15 snakes a day. The problem is that the local wildlife is heading for the nearest dry places, and unfortunately for local residents that often tends to be their homes.

Residents have also been warned to stay out of the water for their own safety, as snakes have been swimming at people's feet as they wade from place to place. Brad Carter, mayor of Rockhampton – one of the most seriously affected towns – told a BBC reporter: “I know one guy killed four snakes this morning, one of which was a Taipan – it injects venom that could easily kill." The government had extra supplies of snake anti-venom flown in to cope with the increased risk of snakebites.

The snakes have been the creatures grabbing the headlines, but they haven’t come alone. Poisonous spiders – of which Australia has a few – are being seen in greater numbers, and the local crocodiles are making use of their extended watery territory.

The total area now affected by the flooding is the size of France and Germany combined, and it is not going to get better anytime soon. The flooding has been caused by six river systems bursting their banks after heavy rain. So even though the forecast is for less rain over the region in the immediate future, there is still an enormous amount of water making its way to the sea. It all means that over 200,000 Queenslanders will be watching out for unwelcome bedfellows for some time to come.