Brisbane is at the end of the Brisbane River, a long, slow moving, meandering brown waterway that drains much of the country from the Great Dividing Range to the west and into the north. As noted by John Oxley as the first explorer in 1823 when he sailed upstream to where Brisbane now sits, the river has no watershed to keep the flow constant but relies on rainfall from its catchment. This inevitability leads to periods of low flow where the river becomes a tidal stream washing upstream on the high tide and downstream on the low tide, much like we’ve had for the last 20 years of drought. He noted from the rotting vegetation high on Spring Hill and Kangaroo Point that this natural choke between these high points must cause massive floods during high rainfall.
John Oxley is basically correct and it seems that the cycle of this flood is based on the La Nina oceanic temperature phenomena where the water temperature warms causing greater precipitation, including cyclones which can impact on Brisbane as happened in the 1974 flood. This cycle has lead to minor and more occasional major floods in 1865, 1893, 1931, 1974 and now 2011.
On Monday the 10 January 2011 a slow moving trough had settled over the catchment of the Brisbane River dumping rain on the already soaked area that had seen an unusually high rainfall. The long ten year drought had well and truly broken and now the dams were full and spilling, a vast change from when there was but 16% in them just a year ago. It was great now to not be on water restrictions and able to use water freely, but this was getting ridiculous now with rain soaked ground causing each new drop to run off filling the flood mitigation percentages of the dams and swelling the streams.
Then the unthinkable happened. Something that no one has ever heard or seen before. Toowoomba, high on the range at 340m above sea level, sat in a place where the dense moist air rose, chilled and dumped its contents on the escarpment and on Toowoomba itself. It was as if God had emptied a bucket on the town, filling the creeks, flash flooding the shops, sweeping away everything in itâ€™s path including cars, shipping containers and people. Sadly two people died when they were trapped in their vehicles by the surging wall of water.
The water that was dumped on Toowoomba flowed west to the Darling Downs causing flooding in many smaller towns, some for the second time in a fortnight, but what happened to the east was of biblical proportions of horror.
As the cool air rose up the range it precipitation out and dumped onto the escarpment creating a high speed wall of water that instantly roared through the Lockyer Valley wiping out low lying areas around the towns of Withcott, Grantham, Gatton, Laidley. The first of these towns copped the full force of the physics of throwing water down a slope. A deluge of high speed water wiping clean everything it it’s path, livestock, cars, houses and sadly people.
Just imagine sitting down to lunch like on any normal day then hearing a freight train coming and have to run for your life with no more than two minutes to get to safe ground, leaving everything behind. How would you feel? I can’t comprehend how difficult that would be to deal with, and how quickly it would be necessary to think and comprehend the enormity of the situation.
That was the worst of it, but as the flow moved downstream swelling creeks and rivers rapidly flooded downstream communities the rain also continued to descend filling all the catchments particularly the giant Wivenhoe Dam to 190% of it’s total 225% capacity. The dam could no longer keep all the water back with the huge inflows coming into it and a controlled release was required to balance it’s inflow with the impact downstream where it would be joining with the Tsunami coming down the Lockyer Valley swelling the Bremer River and flooding Ipswich.
Brisbane is lucky for Local Painters
Unlike Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley where the people had only minutes to evacuate, or a few dozen hours for Ipswich, Brisbane had a couple of days to prepare.
On the Monday night Luke thought to himself this might be ok, but slept well in his bed wondering what tomorrow would bring. The next morning he decided to help a friend next door move some things as she might get a little water through her place as it was single level home on lower ground to his own home, she did get a little water through her place, a little more than expected so much so, she only had the peak of her roof now out of flood water, this in turn meant Lukes tri-gable timber Queenslander now stood in about 5 meters of water almost to the ceiling of his two story home.
Due to Luke’s concern for his neighbor and thinking his home should only get water under it he never moved any of his own possessions out and when the waters came Luke lost everything.
As the flood waters subsided the one stunningly, wonderful thing that came from it was the way the unaffected areas of Brisbane and the greater South East rallied to support and help. Tens of thousands of volunteers came out of the woodwork to help clean up the stinking, slimy muck that had covered roads and seeped into every crevice of people homes and lives. People rallied and formed teams to sweep, hose and wash down lives so they could dry out and start again. There were so many volunteers that some people had to be turned away.
Independent crews of people organised themselves to set up bar-b-cues to make food, deliver coffee and water to clean up gangs all at their own expense and on their own initiative. The community spirit and good will to help those less fortunate was stunning to witness and gives me hope that people still care for each other and it’s not just about the almighty dollar after all.
Several weeks after the flood water had gone Blue Dos Paintings owner Clayton Coughlan received an e-mail from Luke requesting a quote on the costs of repainting his home inside and out as his insurance company had denied his flood claim. He now faced the mammoth task of rebuilding his life and home from scratch with no help from the insurance company. After reading Luke’s e-mail I contacted him to make arrangements to inspect his home at Rocklea. After my visit I contacted Dulux and spoke to Mark Phillips who was at the time The National Program Manager of Dulux Accredited. Clayton asked Mark if Dulux would be willing to partner with his Business in donating the paint required to repaint Luke’s home as part of Blue Dog’s Paint Wish Program. Normally the Paint Wish Program is capped at a $2000 paint job, however after what Luke and the rest of Brisbane had just been through I decided that I wanted to help. I am pleased to say that Dulux were happy to help, so the next day I contacted Luke and told him about our program and that Dulux was also happy to help out. He was relieved that the repainting of his home was one bill he didn’t have to worry about. Luke’s home now looks great and Luke was able to put the money he had set aside to repaint into refurnishing his home.