Wednesday, January 12, 2011

2010–2011 Queensland floods

2010–2011 Queensland floods
Trapped woman on a car roof during flash flooding in Toowoomba 2.jpg
A woman trapped on the roof of her car awaits rescue during the Toowoomba flash flood
Duration:December 2010 – present
Damages:A$13 billion (estimated)
Fatalities:30 confirmed, 12 more believed dead, 70 missing
Areas affected:Much of central and southern Queensland including Brisbane, Rockhampton,Emerald, Bundaberg, Dalby, and Toowoomba

A series of floods hit Australia, beginning in December 2010, primarily in the state of Queensland and its capital city, Brisbane. The floods have forced the evacuation of thousands of people from towns and cities. At least 31 towns and over 200,000 people have been affected. Damage initially was estimated at around A$1bn (£633m). The estimate of lost revenue from Australia's GDP is about A$13 billion. Queensland Treasurer Andrew Fraser said it was not possible to put a figure on the damage; "other than to say the damage bill is going to start with a b and not an m".
Three-quarters of the state of Queensland has been declared a disaster zone - an area larger than Texas and California combined. The 2010-2011 floods have killed at least 30 and the death toll is expected to rise.


The floods were a result of heavy precipitation caused by Tropical Cyclone Tasha that combined with a trough during the peak of a La Niña event. The 2010 La Niña weather pattern, which brings wetter conditions to eastern Australia, was the strongest since 1973. Isolated flooding started across parts of the state in early December. On 24 December a monsoonal trough crossed the coast from the Coral Sea, bringing torrential rain that fell in a broad swath from the Gulf of Carpentaria to the Gold Coast. The conditions also led to a large influx of snakes, as well as some crocodiles.
By 30 December, vast areas of Southern and Central Queensland, an area the size of Germany and France combined, were affected by the flood. About 300 roads were closed, including nine major highways.Coal railway lines were closed and numerous mine sites flooded. The floods have boosted fruit and vegetable prices.
NASA image showing swollen rivers and cloud cover
While flooding has been widespread across Queensland, major flooding has mainly occurred in the three river basins.
Fitzroy River basin, including the Dawson and Nogoa Rivers
Burnett River basin
Condamine River/Balonne River basin, part of the Murray-Darling basin.
A later flood event affected the Mary River basin
Fitzroy River basin
Rockhampton seen from the air on 31 December. The Fitzroy River can be seen to have burst its banks.
The flooding initially forced the evacuation of 1,000 people from Theodore and other towns, described as unprecedented by the acting chief officer of the Emergency Management Queensland. The military transported residents by helicopter to an evacuation centre at Moura.
Emerald was cut-off by road on 29 December as the Nogoa River rose. By the next day, the river surpassed the 2008 flood peak level of 15.36 metres (50.4 ft). At the peak of the flooding, 80% of the town was flooded, the worst the town ever experienced. 1,200 Emerald residents registered as evacuees.
Rockhampton had nearly a week to prepare for an expected flood peak from the Fitzroy River, which courses through the centre of the city.The airport was closed on 1 January. A metal flood barrier was erected around the terminal to prevent flood-borne debris from causing damage to the structure. An evacuation centre was set up at the Central Queensland University. The Bruce Highway leading south out of Rockhampton was closed to traffic. The river peaked at 9.2 metres (30 ft) just short the of the predicted 9.4 metres (31 ft) maximum.
The Port of Gladstone reduced its export capacity because the coal stockpiles at the port were saturated and further coal deliveries could not be made by rail. The Goonyella railway line which services a number of coal mines in the Bowen Basin was closed for one week and shipments of grain were also delayed.
Burnett River basin
The swollen Burnett River at Gayndah, 350 kilometres (220 mi) north west of Brisbane.
The central Burnett towns of Gayndah and Mundubbera saw major flooding on 28–29 December. The Burnett River peaked at 18.25 metres (59.9 ft) at Mundubbera—the highest river height since 1942—inundating more than 20 houses. Downstream at Gayndah, the river peaked at 16.1 metres (53 ft) with floodwaters reaching two houses. Both towns were isolated for several days and there was major disruption to the potable water supply and local agricultural production.
Bundaberg experienced severe flooding, the worst in 40 years, after the Burnett River flooded the city. Floodwater forced 300 households to leave their homes.

Condamine/Balonne River basin
Churchill Drive flooded in Warwick
Chinchilla and Jericho were also inundated. At least 40 residents were evacuated from Chinchilla.
Flooding in Dalby was the worst since 1981. The town's water purification system was flooded, resulting in water restrictions that have hampered clean-up efforts. 112,500 litres (24,700 imp gal; 29,700 U.S. gal) of water were transported to the town of 14,000 residents. Warwick was isolated when all roads into the town were cut-off.
The Condamine River reached 14.25 metres (46.8 ft) on 30 December, its highest level ever recorded. Condamine was mandatorily evacuated on 30 December.
Floodwaters are passing downstream along the Balonne River and threaten the towns of Surat and St George. The river is expected to peak at 12.5 metres (41 ft) at Surat and 14 metres (46 ft) at St George. The New South Wales towns of Angledool, Goodooga and Weilmoringle are expected to be isolated when floodwaters from the Balonne reach the Culgoa and Bokhara Rivers.
A second rain event on 9–10 January saw floodwaters again threaten Chinchilla and Condamine with Chinchilla residents again asked to evacuate.
Mary River basin
Heavy rain in the Mary River catchment on 8–9 January 2011 lead to flooding at Maryborough and Gympie. The Mary River at Maryborough was expected to initially peak at 8.5 metres (28 ft) at midday 9 January with some houses and businesses inundated. A second peak is expected to arrive from rain falling upstream later that day. At Gympie, the Mary River is expected to peak at 16 metres (52 ft), possibly increasing to 17 metres (56 ft)—over the major flood level—if rain continues to fall.

Toowoomba flash flood
Long and Mackenzie Streets in Toowoomba flooded
In the Darling Downs, the city of Toowoomba was hit by flash flooding after more than 160 millimetres (6.3 in) of rain fell in 36 hours to 10 January 2011; this event caused four deaths in a matter of hours. Toowoomba sits on the watershed of the Great Dividing Range, some 700 metres (2,300 ft) above sea level. A three week period where it had rained on all but three days had left the soil around Toowoomba saturated and when a line of storms hit the city on 10 January, the resulting torrential rain rapidly ran off down gullies and streets. The central business district of the city sits in a small valley where two small water courses—East Creek and West Creek—meet to form Gowrie Creek. Unable to cope with the volume of water heading toward them, the creeks burst their banks, pushing a devastating wall of water through the city centre.
Nearby Gatton saw voluntary evacuations as the Lockyer Creek rose to a record height of 18.92 metres (62.1 ft), exceeding the previous record set in the 1893 Queensland floods. The surge passed through the Lockyer Valley town of Withcott, where the force of the water pushed cars into shops and forcing the evacuation of hundreds of people. The scene was described by an onlooker as "like Cyclone Tracy has gone through it ... If you dropped an atom bomb on it, you couldn't tell the difference." Grantham was also hit hard by the flooding rains. Houses were left crumpled by what Premier of Queensland Anna Bligh described as an "inland tsunami". Nine people were confirmed dead, with the toll expected to double that figure, and 66 were missing.
Brisbane River catchment
Wheel of Brisbane during the floods
On 11 January 2011 at around 2:30 p.m. EST, the Brisbane River broke its banks leading to evacuations in the Brisbane CBD and the suburbs of Fortitude Valley and West End. An evacuation centre was established for flood-affected residents at the RNA Showgrounds in Bowen Hills. According to media outlets, most of Brisbane had been evacuated prior to the arrival of floods, which struck the city on 12 January. Brisbane Mayor Campbell Newman stated than an estimated 20,000 homes would be affected when the river peaks on 14 January.
The Bremer River at Ipswich—30 kilometres (19 mi) west of Brisbane—reached a height of 19.4 metres (64 ft) on 12 January, inundating the central business district and at least 3,000 houses. One third of the city was said to be underwater and over 1100 people had taken shelter at evacuation centres. At nearby Marburg, a 4 year old boy was swept away by floodwaters when he fell from a rescue boat. A man in his 50s died when he accidentally drove into floodwaters in the Ipswich suburb of Wulkuraka. The worst affected areas of Ipswich were the suburbs of Goodna and Gailes.
In South East Queensland, the Wivenhoe Dam filled to a level equivalent to 191% of its supply capacity on 11 January 2011. Brisbane experienced its wettest December since 1859. Wyaralong Dam, near Beaudesert, had recently been completed and is receiving praise for mitigating flooding in downstream Logan, having exceeded 80% of its capacity.
In North Queensland, the town of Ingham became isolated as the Herbert River peaked. Homes at Babinda, and Gordonvale were flooded.


As of 13 January 2011, 30 deaths have been attributed to the floods - of the 30 deaths, 13 are from the Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley area. Additionally, at least 70 people are listed as missing, with grave concerns for 12 people, after a catastrophic flash flood struck Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley.
The first death was reported on 20 November 2010, when a woman drowned in her vehicle near Dysart. In the following weeks, five others died from the same circumstance.
In addition, nine people drowned from being caught directly by the flowing waters. Another thirteen people died from other circumstances.

This section requires expansion.
Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard toured flood-affected areas on 31 December, the day before the Queen of Australia, Elizabeth II, sent her expressions of concern and sympathy for the victims of the floods to her representative in Queensland, Governor Penelope Wensley. Around 80 military personnel have been engaged in flood-relief activities.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated, "On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I offer my condolences for the loss of life and damage in Queensland caused by the recent flooding."U.S. President Barack Obama said he was ready to help.
The Australian Defence Force established Joint Task Force 637, based at Enoggera Barracks in Brisbane, for operational command of flood relief assistance. It comprised personnel from all three services, including reservists. RAAF C-130 Hercules aircraft were used to transport supplies to Rockhampton, Emerald, St George and Mackay. Australian Army Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters and Royal Australian Navy Sea King helicopters were used for relief operations and aeromedical evacuations.
Food supplies to northern Queensland have been disrupted requiring groceries to be transported to Townsville by ship.
About 35 State Emergency Service personnel from New South Wales and 20 personnel from Victoria were deployed to provide relief to exhausted staff and volunteers. A national appeal was established on 29 December, with the state and federal governments giving A$1 million each.
Small businesses and primary producers in 13 local government areas became eligible for grants of up to A$25,000 to pay for costs from damage incurred as a result of the floods. National Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements were made available to a total of 31 local government areas across Queensland.
Major General Michael Slater was appointed head of the recovery task force.
On 9 January, the Flood Relief Appeal: Australia Unites telethon broadcast by the Nine Network from Brisbane's Suncorp Piazza raised more than A$10 million in pledged aid.

See also
Townsville airport


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