It was just two years ago when most of Queensland went under in some of the worst flooding here in living memory.
For those of us that live in Brisbane’s flood affected suburbs, we couldn’t believe we were at it all again – evacuating furniture and belongings, studying the tide levels, watching the rising waters, sand bagging … how could it come to this again so soon?
When a lot of the state went under in 2011 it was considered one of the Great Flood events of the era, a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. We didn’t expect it to happen in 2013, just two years later, when some people are still just settling back into their homes.
The speed of the disaster this time was disconcerting. In late 2010 we had months of preceding rain that culminated in the mergence of storm cells over Toowoomba that led to the inland tsunami through the Lockyer Valley and ultimately the submergence of Ipswich and Brisbane under our rivers. At the time there had been flood predictions for months. It was still a shock when it happened, but not unexpected.
Video courtesy of Reuters:
This time we had no buildup of rain. It was dry as a bone last week. In fact Australia was baking under unprecedented temperatures. Here in Brisbane the earth was so dry it was literally crying for rain, while down south much of the country was burning in terrible fires. “Australia burns” read newspapers in New Zealand prompting Kiwi friends to email about our well being.
Then ex-tropical cyclone Oswald emerged and suddenly tornadoes, yes tornadoes, were lashing Bundaberg on the central Queensland coast. We don’t usually have tornadoes in Australia.
Then north Queensland disappeared in the deluge: rivers, creeks and waves pounded communities and towns submerged. In Bundaberg hundreds were rescued from rooptops by helicopter as deep water rescue was not an option with 40 knot water piling around homes – some houses are expected to be swept away.
Even then, like last time, we doubted we’d have the same trouble in Brisbane. Then ex-tropical cyclone Oswald made its presence felt. At first the rain was welcome, celebrated even. But then it didn’t stop and the winds came. Trees went down, there was debris everywhere. We scurried around under raincoats securing outdoor items. The power went out. We immediately went for batteries to power the radio and ice for the food – they were almost sold out of both. Friends came to get our frozen food.
Then the flood warnings came: flooding expected, but two metres less than 2011. However this still would mean property inundation for us.
We hit the SES (State Emergency Services) depot early for sandbags and had three trailer loads in place by 10am in time for the expected 10.29am peak.
We stood with our neighbours on the street corner, just as we had in 2011, and waited. It seemed so surreal. The sun was out. It was hot and it was so quiet. It came up fast, far too fast, faster than last time and we grew nervous. No one said anything but we were all thinking the same thing.
And then, it eased and retreated. It was far less than expected – just 70cm on the property. We heaved a sigh of relief and the waiting game began for the next high tide. This one was at midnight. So we set alarms and did the midnight check with torches. All fine. I sent text messages to friends that were up and waiting in case we needed them.
Today’s tide was forecast as the worst. Police came and closed the road, the council turned up and SES workers arrived with a boat. A crowd gathered. The phone kept ringing, friends kept turning up and we watched the brown sludge ease up and across the road.
Like the day before it surged, then eased, stopped and fell away. Water lapped at properties but didn’t go in. And for once the community of Auchenflower could celebrate. We’d been ready, we’d known what to do and for once Mother Nature seemed on our side.
But as we now begin the cleanup, thankful for how lucky we have been, there probably won’t be a lot of champagne bottles uncorked tonight. Our thoughts now rest with our Queensland friends in places like Bundaberg, Laidley and Ipswich. And further south down towards Sydney. Hang in there guys.