Brisbane floods in Bellbowrie

My experience of the Brisbane Floods in 2011
January 16 2011

Where to start with this one.  This event is easily the most catastrophic disaster I have ever been personally involved in (I’m excluding a few software projects).  We’d been hearing reports of floods up north for a few weeks prior to this.  My mother, and three of my siblings live at Maryborough, which was recently engulfed in flood waters, with some pretty impressive pictures shortly there-after appearing on Facebook.  I could nearly track the waters progress by Facebook photo updates alone.  My high school stomping ground of Beerwah wasn’t long after.  Pictures of water crossing the streets, and places where I’d never seen water while I’d lived there, were posted.  Then came Toowoomba.

From the images coming out of Toowoomba, it was ravished by a deluge, with torrents of water roaring through the main street, taking all in its path.  At work, we joked, wondering how this was possible; Toowoomba is high up on top of a hill.  What we later learned is Toowoomba is pretty much nestled inside a crater on the top of a hill (and thinking about the drive in, it makes sense), so the waters hit the hills and flowed down to the bottom, the main street, where it came together before heading down the mountain, taking everything in its path: Tree, vehicles, homes, towns.

Still the heavy rains continued and the Wivenhoe Dam, built after the disastrous Brisbane floods of 1974, to ensure Brisbane wouldn’t get a repeat, started to fill.  Only a few years ago the Dam was at 8% capacity and we were all worried about it going dry and Brisbane running out of water.  No such fear now, as dam levels surged (no pun intended) past 100%.  Wivenhoe has a capacity of 200%, 100% for ‘normal’ and another 100% capacity for flood mitigation.  Scheduled releases of water had to be made to ensure the dam did not get to 200% and more.  These releases helped increase the volume of water in the Brisbane river.

Driving to work on Tuesday morning I noticed water starting to appear in places where it definitely should not.  Place where I’d not seen it before.  My wife and I agreed that if the rain persisted we’d come home from work, to ensure we could get our kids from daycare and not be cutoff from them and our homes.  We knew that Moggill Rd goes under in heavy rain and have been lucky not be cut off once before.

By 9:30am it was obvious the rain wasn’t easing, and Day care phoned parents asking them to collect their children, so staff who didn’t reside in Bellbowrie could get home before the were cutoff.  I left work and headed in to get the kids, finding the wet roads like peak hour, as many other had the same idea.  I thought I’d duck in the shops and get some bread and milk, just to be sure.  When I got the local shopping centre, I saw something I’d never seen before.  Every single car-park was full and cars were circling, looking for a space.  I decided to aborted.  We’d been shopping on Sunday and had enough stocks for the week.  I grabbed the kids and my Wife (from the bus stop, so she didn’t have to walk in the pouring rain) and went home.

By midday I thought it prudent to get some supplies.  We had no Pepsi Max! and I went down to Coles again.  I’d also been checking BOM and noticed the Brisbane River at Moggill was set to peak at 22m, 7m higher than the radio had said 3 hours earlier.  I did a quick guestimation and figured that’d easily but the shops under water and food might become scarce.  Coles wasn’t any better.  All the Bread and fresh fruit and vege was gone.  I did managed to get some milk and an Ice Break though.

Initially I thought the buying at Coles was panic buying; that people were overreacting.  I was considering that Coles would go under so we'd be without access to food supply for a few days.  I didn't really get that Coles would be out of action for a while, weeks and perhaps months.

I also didn't consider the power would go off for days because of flooding, and until flood waters subside.  Something that could be over a week based on reports at the time.

I didn't think of what would happen when the gas in my BBQ ran out.

Initially I was thinking I'd have 3 or 4 days at home, stuck inside, watching TV and playing Video games.  Sounded OK to me.

The rest of the afternoon was spent with one eye on the TV news reports and the other on twitter and online news, with 612 Brisbane streaming live coverage through my PC; the vision being streamed of Toowomba - flabbagasting.

I was a little concered, given my position on the Brisbane River, west of the majority of Brisbane, closer to the Wivenhoe.

Bellbowrie Floods Map

Still, for me it was something new and I was yet to appreciate the devastation to come.  I was nearly entertained by it all.  Sad I admit .

Log of events whilst isolated in Bellbowrie because of the water level

January 11, 2011

Time Description
0630 Took the kids to kindy at Mother Duck, in the soon to be flooded area
0645 Driving to work I noticed the high water levels in the areas that flood with heavy rain for extended periods
0645 Driving to work I noticed the high water levels in the areas that flood with heavy rain for extended periods
0930 Left work to ensure I could pick the kids up from daycare and that I wasn't left stranded on the otherside of the river
1000 Stopped at the local shopping centre to get supplies from Coles. Every carpark taken and people searching for spots to park. I didn't bother stopping
1150 Went down to Coles and found a spot. Bread, Milk, Fruit & Vege all gone. Trolleys lined up from checkout to back wall of every aisle. Thank god we did our shop for the week 2 days ago
  Flood level predicitions adjusted up from 15m to 22m at Moggill

January 12, 2011

Time Description
0240 Power goes off and I start thinking about food going off and how I will make coffee in the morning. Sirens are sounding in the background. It's just got real.
0600 I get out of bed and boil water for coffee on the bbq. Breakfast as usual. The kids had "pink" milk with their breakfast, trying to use as much milk as possible before it goes off
0800 Got in the car for a survey of damage in Bellbowrie
  • Coles is flooded
  • Kindy is flooded
  • Water up to shopping center entrance on Birkin Road
  • Moggill Ferry tied up. Power poles normally on river banks are now in the middle of the river. River is fast flowing with large chunks of debris moving through.
  • Hawkesbury Rd is cut in multiple places
  • Kangaroo Gully Rd is cut near the Pet Motel
  • Moggill Rd cut near McIntyre center (which usually floods)
  • There is no way out of Bellbowrie and Moggill by road
1300 Attempted to get some sleep. It's hot and humid.
1400 Afternoon inspection of flood areas.
  • Coles & Shopping center has water up to 0.30m below the roof.
  • Corner of Church and Haweksubry Rds very flooded.

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