Warwick – Two Floods In Two Weeks

Posted on: January 18th, 2011 by Julie Lewin No Comments

I live in Warwick on the Darling Downs in Queensland.  Like most people at Christmas, we had our family come to stay and we enjoyed a delicious Christmas lunch. Some family left early for Ipswich worried about The Gap.

Cunningham’s Gap has been closed off and on for repairs over the last 12 months. There have been land slips and road slips making the road unstable … and when the rain comes – you never know if the road is going to be open or closed.

On 27 December 2010 – our kids headed off home to Brisbane and returned 45 minutes later. The road to Toowoomba and Brisbane was closed.

Flooded Condamine River

Flooded Condamine River

The Condamine River had broken its banks and was rising. Being new to the area, I wasn’t sure what that meant … but we had an intuition that the O.O. Madsen Bridge – main bridge taking traffic through town … would go under. About midday we crossed over the swollen river to get supplies.

We bunkered down and played scrabble all afternoon … what else do you do when its pouring rain outside???

At 5pm, my husband interrupted our game and said, “You’ve got to come and have a look at this – its a once in a lifetime thing!” Not knowing what to expect, I went with him in the car … the bottom of our street had the river lapping at the edge. I was barefoot and in my pjs … but that didn’t stop me walking down to watch the river rise over the flooded O.O. Madsen Bridge.

Condamine lapping our street

Condamine River lapping our street

There were huge spiders crawling on the wet footpath trying to get out of the rising waters and I heard that snakes in the river were trying to get onto the bridge before it went under.

O.O. Madsen Bridge Warwick Flooded

O.O. Madsen Bridge Warwick

In one breath the sight was awe-inspiring … and in the next it was heartbreaking knowing that this water was going to destroy peoples homes and lives.

As night fell … the river continued to rise and we were isolated by flood water … but our house was on high ground and wouldn’t be affected.

The water dropped quickly the next day … and the road to Toowoomba was open after lunch. The kids made their getaway. Warwick wasn’t their idea of a fun place to be stuck during a flood. They arrived safely in Brisbane after a slow trip home.

We thought that would be the end of it … but it just kept raining and raining … the Condamine River as well as all the other rivers had to flow somewhere. And whole towns were evacuated. Heartbreaking.

We expected the rain to stop soon … but it didn’t.

My mother was visiting from Hervey Bay for a 3 week holiday and she was due to be taken home on Friday, 7 January.

We listened to the weather forecast and heard that there was high rainfall expected … but we didn’t really believe it would happen. Our plan of attack was that if it was raining on the morning of 7 January 2011 – we would stay put and take Mum home when the floods cleared. However, it wasn’t raining … so we set off for Hervey Bay. Foolish decision.

Cunningham’s Gap was open alternate hours … so we made it through there with a 20 minute wait. Two lanes had slipped and we took turns in going single file on the lane closest to the cliff face. You could tell that the workers were concerned for this section of the road. There were many landslides on The Gap.

At the bottom of the range it started to rain … and didn’t stop – all the way to Hervey Bay. From Caboolture the rain was so hard that we could just make out the tail lights of the car in front. It was very frightening – especially as the water was lapping bridges and road in many places.

It was one of those situations where we didn’t know if it was worse to go forward or go back.

We pushed forward slowly and arrived safely in Hervey Bay … very relieved. But we still had the home journey … did we stay put or risk it.

At 8am on 8 January, Frank and I started the homeward trek … the Lamington Bridge in Maryborough was closed – the river had risen at least 2 metres overnight. There was another route out of town. We made it to Gympie over many creeks lapping the bridges to find that the road was closed there. On the way, we could see how high the water had come … it had dropped metres in some places. I was very grateful we didn’t try to drive back through the night!

Thankfully, we had somewhere to stay at Gympie – and listened to the road condition updates every half hour – hoping for an escape from the rising waters. Luckily the rain stopped during the afternoon.

At 5.30am on 9 January 2011, we woke up to pouring rain again … Frank dialled the road conditions number and heard the road to Brisbane was open … we threw everything into the car and were on the road in 20 minutes. It was eerie … driving through Gympie – there was no other traffic about.

We managed to get onto the Bruce Highway and out of town … we didn’t see another car for an hour. It turned out that the road closed again around 8.30am and Gympie was severely flooded over the coming days. We were very lucky to get out.

Cunningham’s Gap was open, but the road had slipped by about another 75cm and had encroached into the one lane left by about 50cm.

Frank drive’s a taxi in Toowoomba and he was going to work on Monday, 10 January, but changed his mind after the horrific journey we’d had to and from Hervey Bay.

When we watched the flash flooding in Toowoomba that afternoon … we felt very blessed that he wasn’t there and heartbroken at the tragedy that unfolded that week.

100 year flood level - Condamine River - Warwick

100 year flood level - Condamine River

The rain kept coming … and the Condamine River rose again … higher than the 27 December 2010 flood – it reached the 100 year flood level. It was surreal to watch the flood waters rise up our street again so quickly.

We couldn’t believe our town could flood twice in 2 weeks. And then there were all the other towns downstream who would be devastated again, too.

We then watched in horror as the river rose in Ipswich and Brisbane. And … immensely grateful that our children were safe.

I have to confess … I have asked myself over and over “Why are some people blessed and others destroyed?” And there isn’t an answer.

But I do know that those who have been blessed are moved to help those you have lost everything.

I hope you will join me and others who have been blessed to support our vision to raise $50,000 or more for people who have been affected by the floods in Queensland.

Julie Lewin

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