Aerial shots of the Warwick region in flood on January 11, 2011.
Aerial shots of the Warwick region in flood on January 11, 2011. John Towells, pilot Peter Lindores

Fighting spirit unmoved by floods

ON this day, one year ago, the second wave of floods tore through the Southern Downs, destroying all in its path.

As children walked the streets to find their toys scattered across mud-drenched lawns, parents attempted to salvage what they could of their belongings.

Phone calls from all corners of the globe swooped into Queensland homes, as friends and families hoped and prayed their loved ones who were affected by the floods were still alive.

For some, these phone calls were deliverances of heartbreaking news, and for others they brought about sighs of relief.

Three hundred and sixty five days later, and Mayor Ron Bellingham said the spirit of the Southern Downs was stronger than ever.

"One year on from the floods the Southern Downs community is recovering very well," Cr Bellingham said.

"Fortunately we weren't affected socially as much as other communities, with no loss of life, although there has certainly been hardship for many and the spirit has shone through."

Repairs have been under way since the devastation and acting director of Engineering Services Eric Kraak said the council has been working with the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements to organise flood recovery funding approvals.

"The most recent estimated cost of repairs for flood damage to roads and other infrastructure is $40 million," Mr Kraak said.

"Around $17m was received last financial year but no other funds have yet been approved by the NDRRA.

"Council is continuing to work with NDRRA to gain flood recovery funding approvals and the council has meanwhile been conducting priority repairs under its own steam in anticipation of this funding," he said.

The region may be receiving help, but for some affected by the floods, seeking insurance payouts was a nightmare.

This was the case for Warwick local David Parry, who said it was all that and more.

After his house was ravaged by flood waters, he was told by his insurance company he would not receive a cent.

"I had only been with CGU for about a year and when I signed up I asked for the highest level of cover and I asked 'is there anything that isn't covered' and they said no, everything would be covered."

Being a mechanic, Mr Parry had no shortage of tools and expensive equipment in his shed, which were ruined by the flood waters.

"Then we called the insurance company and they said we weren't covered for flood damage," he said.

"I just told them where to put their insurance and now I'm with Suncorp."

David Parry is still working to repair his home, one year later.

"We're still getting back to where we were, we just had the house assessed and it's going to cost $25,000 to re-stump the house so we're working towards that and I've slowly bought tools so I have most of them back now," he said.

"I wouldn't recommend CGU to anyone."

Timeline of Devastation

December 26, 2010: The first flood washed through Warwick and throughout smaller regions.

In the 24-hour rain period, Felton received the highest rainfall of 144mm, with Freestone just behind at 124mm. Maryvale recorded 98mm, Allora 87, Warwick 65mm and Yangan 57mm. Killarney received 49mm and Stanthorpe 34mm.

December 27, 2010: The New England Highway near the Eight Mile is cut off when Freestone Ck bursts its banks.

Midday: Local Disaster Co-ordination Centre activated.

3.30pm: Council warns Leslie Dam could reach 100 per cent and overflow within hours.

5pm: Slade Campus becomes full of evacuees and WIRAC opens as an alternative.

December 28, 2010: Cunningham's Gap closed after road slip worsens after the rain.

Evening: O.O. Madsen Bridge re-opened.

December 29, 2010: $100m flood bill estimated for the region.

January 11, 2011: Second flood hits region, with the Condamine River peaking about 10pm. At 5.30pm it measured 8.05m.

Leslie Dam overflowing at 60,000ML per day and all seven gates open at 800mm.

Residents scramble to get out of the way of the rising water. At Scots PGC, irrigation pipes were transported by volunteers out of harm's way. Water covered Briggs Oval by lunch-time.

5.55pm: Glengallan Creek at Backwater measured 4.75m and rising.

January 12, 2011: Rotary Club of Warwick announces it will donate to flooded organisations.

January 13, 2011: Farmers despair at the amount of clean-up ahead of them, saying the floods were worse than a drought.

January 14, 2011: Warwick Hockey Association estimates between $500,000-$750,000 worth of damage.

Residents call for changes to Condamine River flood plain.

January 20, 2011: Residents in the region keep an eye on dam walls after reports of one large one crumbling in Stanthorpe.

March 1, 2011: Calls for disaster warnings surface.


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