Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Toowoomba Still lives in Fear...

On the 10th of Jan. 2011, Toowoomba experienced a phenomenon that will  haunt the community for many years to come.  We had, what they called, an inland tsunami.

Those who don't know anything about toowoomba, I'll give you a quick run down.  Toowoomba is situated about 1.5 hours drive south/west of Brisbane on a mountain range called the Blue Mountains.  But seeing as how it's on a mountain, we're always smug in the thought that we never flood.  If ever there was a flood or a tidal wave or whatever, we wouldn't really be affected much...because we're so high.  I don't know how high above sea level, I can't remember, but enough to make us all feel pretty safe if ever there was an apocalypse or something ;)


That was until that fateful monday afternoon when the unthinkable happened.  It had been raining on and off for weeks.  I'm saying WEEKS!  It was the most rain that toowoomba had seen in many years.  We were in a drought up until then...level 6 water restrictions.  I believe the dam was at 35% or so.  So of course many residence forgot how toowoomba handles rains like that.

Well...it does have a drainage system, basically from one end of the city to the other...a few of them actually.  Now don't ask me where they begin and most importantly where they end, but it is well known....and now it is remembered that the drains would flood after heavy rains.  Just some localised flooding...nothing terrible or anything to be concerned about.  We'd get some water over the roads in some places where the drains have overflowed.

But this particular day....after it had been raining for weeks and the ground was sodden and just couldn't take anymore water, there was a deluge.  I'm talking....bucketloads!!!  It was just pouring and pouring, so much that there was some minor leaking from the roof and our backyard flooded and almost came in the house. 

We were literally watching the water creep onto the paved part of our outdoor area.  You could see it coming closer and closer to our back door.  So we're running around grabbing towels and things and Aaron tries ringing the SES to get us some sand bags.  We couldn't get through to them though, we tried and we tried and finally we gave up and cursed them for being so useless (little did we know).

Looking out the windows you can see a small river going down our driveway and then going down out street, which is only a slight hill.  And I remember saying "Gee I wonder where all that water is going to go?"

The rain settled down and the water didn't come into the house thank God.  And we didn't think much of it...we went to bed that night and got woken up early in the morning by phone calls.  Aaron's workmates ringing and asking if we're ok.  My mum ringing me and asking how we faired.  And we're like "...ummmm...yeh, all's good guys".

So I'm speaking to my mum, and she's telling me about some flooding and how her and my sister were caught in it, and I'm just assuming she's talking about the usual localised flooding we get...but she stops me and says..."You better turn on the tv".

So I turn it on and the first thing that hits me is "14 dead in Toowoomba's inland tsunami". 

Holy shit!!!  Aaron!  You better get in here!!!!

And we stood there watching as images of the streets that we only just walked on two days prior....well...they were no longer there!  It was just water!!! 

The drains just couldn't take anymore and the water was gushing!!  I mean gushing....like  rapids!  And cars were being wiped out and squished against each other, trees, drains, buildings......it was awful!!!

Problem is, that all that water only had one place to go...DOWN!

And it cascaded down our mountain in torrents!  It destroyed everything in it's path.  The little towns of Grantham and Murphy's Creek, Spring Bluff, and even Withcott, all got dessimated!

Homes were washed away...people were washed away!  A mother and her son were swept to their deaths down the road from us.  Some friends of my sisters where killed after putting their children onto the roof of their house.  The whole town of Grantham, was a war zone! 

In the end, I believe it was about 20 or so people killed and still 3 missing from that deadly waterfall.  And yes...it was just like a waterfall.

Well today we had a deluge of rain....big heavy raindrops, not that different from the day of the floods.  Thankfully we haven't had weeks and weeks of rain so our waterways and things were able to handle it...and we had our usual local flooding that disappeared within an hour or so. 

I was shopping today and you can still see it in people's faces.  People talking about the rain and how they hope it stops soon.  And you just know, that they're thinking of that day.  You can see it...a town still in shock!

A lot has been cleaned up, but there is still evidence of the floods when you drive around.  Down town the 'Coffee Club' still hasn't re-opened and it's been 5 months.  They were completly smashed!  'Wow sight and sound' only opened their doors a couple of weeks ago.  It's just taking a fair while for some businesses to recover.

There is still depri in railings, in some places.  Some railings are still bent.  There's still yellow tape around bridges. And down the range is still recovering.  I haven't been down there but I hear that rebuilding is slow and there is still some evidence of landslips still.

No...I don't think people will forget that day, for a very long time.  Everytime there is heavy rain, we are going to wonder if it's going to happen again!

On a good note, it showed the community spirit and the good ole' Aussie resiliance!


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