Flood Diary – January 2011

If you go to NearMaps here, you can see our street. The photo was taken after the flood had gone a long way down, but you can still see the high-tide mark on Campana Street (you might have to zoom in so the street map disappears). Some of the houses at the right went completely under, and if you look at the houses on Colwell Street you can see where the water came to on some of their roofs.

Below are some extracts from my diary. Rather self centred, but it is a diary, and in general I keep mine so that I can answer if the police ever ask, “Where were you on the night of the 27th”. I had also decided (before the floods) to memorise Psalm 46 this week, which contains such lines as “though the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging” which, in light of subsequent events, seemed very appropriate.

All the flood sketches are from Thursday – on Tuesday and Wednesday I was too busy stressing (and carrying other people’s furniture) and on Friday, Saturday & Sunday there were too many other things to do.

I’ve included this sketch because it is at Eagle Street Pier and West End, which were both flooded:

Page 28

Tuesday 11.1.11

Can’t quite credit we’re in a natural disaster. People at the end of the street are emptying their house. People are dying. Usual start [to the day]… Parts of CBD being evacuated & parts of Oxley Road were over this morning. Left [work] at 12. Very crowded train. Home via Coles – many people. No batteries. C. 4ish B & I went for a walk – floods over Colwell (street), walkway, mayfly roundabout, floodplains, golf club, on & off ramps for highway city-side of Ipswich/Oxley Rds roundabout & Super Amart carpark… Watched My Generation because it wasn’t about the floods & I made a 1/3 batch of red velvet cupcakes. Diesel [my sister’s dog] is under the house making an unholy noise in key w the sirens… After 11 I walked down street – met S & C [neighbours from next door]. Stars, but waters rising – a foot or two below wooden park fence-rail. Worried/restless/surreal. Finally to bed a bit before midnight. Don’t know if tomorrow holds work or packing. Am restless, listening for wind or rain… Just went out & checked. Still a few stars. Mind you, thought of hot summer sun is worrying [i.e. hot sun after heavy rain] but long-term far better than alternative.

Wednesday 12.1.11

1.50-ishpm. I am sitting in the car listening to the radio & thought I should start on today’s entry since – if we are here tonight – we don’t have power. Up at 6 after a poor night’s sleep. Walked down to see how water had risen – just over Campana-Bannerman corner. Walked w D from acrsso the road around to Oxley Road and the traffic circle – water on the highway from the roundabout stretching out to the city. The water had gone into Amart. A snake went swimming past, head held high… Power went out while I was in the bathroom. B & I helped carry things from a house on Colwell, through the school. Some of the houses on the other side [of Colwell] were up to near the tops of their windows. Acquired C’s fish (Louie) and D’s bird (Charlie) & a number of C’s books. Am a bit burned. Alternating sun & rain… People down the street are evacuating – 6 or 8 to a piece of furniture. I’m going to go in after the news & finish putting together my emergency backpack. Helicopters are flying over. DE called to tell me to put things up high… [Manager at work] said it was only to be essential staff today & power would be going.

Page 29

Now about a quarter to 7. Spent afternoon packing backpack & filing & being incredibly tense in my jaw – kept ducking out to see what was going on & what other people were doing. Before 6 B & I went out for a walk w Diesel, liberally aeroguarded. Water just over road above Amart, up past crosswalk at Oxley, up nearly to top of doors at Bunnings. Some boats out. Up over Colwell side of oval. When we came back water was fully over road above Amart, & over our street sign @ the end of Campana. We only have a few small decorative candles. I’m out in the yard at the moment in the car, listening to the radio. c. 5ish I think they said the max will be less than ’74, but a helicopter was flying over at the time. Plan to… get up at 4 to see the peak. Had a message from [manager] that building is closed until the end of the week… Taking notes from radio…. (just remembered – lights in the car!). 4.3 & rising in CBD. Peak of 5.2 expected at high tide 4am below ’74 [peak] of 5.5.

13.1.11 Thurs?

I’m writing this by the light of a wind up torch [B-next-door] gave me – it also recharges phones! This makes my phone show a screen which says “happy day”. It is awesome & I love it. Also it is 10.50pm & I woke up at 3.30am, rigid with nerves, my toes cold & my scalp clenched. Lay there, stomach churning & gurgling, then eventually put one foot on the floor. It was dry. Got up a little before 4 when I heard B’s alarm. We walked down to the water… Now, last night B & I had cold-pasta-and-tuna-fish (flavoured), with wine, by candlelight (double wicked scented candle Mommy gave us for Christmas, on top of the upside-down colander, so that its light would get into the bowls. Then we went over to S&C’s [downhill neighbours] with C&B [uphill neighbours] for drinks & general talk. Very pleasant. I was stressed & I think S was too, but we talked about music & then wound up all quoting The Castle… Before bed we went down to the water & could see it creeping up. Not the slow up&down wind-ripples of the day before, when if you kept your eye on a particular piece of gravel long enough the water would eventually work its way around it, but a gentle, trickling crawl up the street, which seemed gentle & inexorable & was terrifying. I went to bed thinking – my neighbours are not hydrologists, my neighbours are not hydrologists. It isn’t the potential loss – as B said, we could walk away – but not knowing what to do, if we should worry, how much effort to give to what, what the risks are, that it will be our fault if we don’t do something but no-one on our street can get cars out &c &c... So, up at 4, expecting it to be at least at the bottom of S’s [downhill neighbour], where he said it was in ’74 & it was only about 1m (horizontally) further up the street, at the second power pole. Much, much relief. No one else seemed to be around (apparently S was out every hour).

Page 30

B & I sat in her car & listened to 612ABC until 4.30ish. Then… I walked up to the circle & watched the sky get light, then came back to the street & ended up at F&G’s [neighbours 2 doors up] having tea & toast… F gave me a thermos of hot water… Cut the belled elephant off a bag from Thailand A had given me [sorry A – it was really really noisy] & put my sketchbook etc in there. Walked up to the traffic circle & sketched. Came back… Houses on far side [of Colwell] – just peak of roof showing. Sketched & talked, in & out of house, putting Charlie in & out with the weather…  F came around collecting onions & looking for mince. Her daughter came through the road block… with some supplies incl. fresh bread! At 2pm we took our meat from the freezer over… & so did others, & we had a big bbq lunch on their balcony… I’d also taken Sarah Lee apricot danish & chocolate pie, so we had those cold w custard. Then tea…

Played guitar to Charlie – just picking out the tunes of songs about rivers… K, “the biker from the end of the street” is a real raconteur. In the evening, we put chairs in front of  our house [for assorted neighbours]. Lots of laughter – S & K had seen a potential looter, there were stories of the neighbourhood, of high tree-houses, of K frightening the local kids w tales of “the Creek Freak”, with the head of a dog & the body of a turtle, & webbed claws & a cry much like fighting bats, & it’s claimed lives & even the cops don’t like to talk about it b/c they’ve lost someone to it – & how [the story] kept kids away from the creek for 8 months. Marijuana in the back lots. Amateur film makers causing police hunts for [non-existent] bodies &c. .. Came home by torchlight c10.30.

Boats went by occasionally at the bottom of the street. Apparently the police arrested & took away a few people on body boards who may or may not have been looting from affected houses. In the afternoon I was with C&B for part of the walk – we went around Bannerman – some houses still deep. Road free of water but such a mess. Even a dead mouse (I saw an ibis eating one at the school). 2 guys from Booth Mechanics were loading up a borrowed canoe onto their car – they’d been out to workplace, told us about moving trucks to overpass etc, showed us photo of them posing with the Wanless plane [light plane on a pole outside a wreckers along the motorway], just w its nose at the water.

Page 31

Greyish mud on things. Strong smell of fuel & oil. Quiet. No power. Voices & dynamo torches & the tick of the clock & of course the regular helicopters are very, startlingly loud. We are a bit wistful at missing the television coverage of it all. News is… passed on & garbled & rumoured. We aren’t completely stranded – just can’t get cars out & many roads are cut. I think we could get to Aldis on Blunder Road via Rudd Street. Frogs are noisy during the day. I saw a spoonbill… Also this evening before dark people from Oxley Uniting [church] came around with bags of ice. Lovely!

14.1.11 Fri

Up at 7… there was just enough room [at the end of the street] to get out so we took my car – very exciting! Blunder Rd was still closed & so was the Mway after the circle – went via Rudd St to the Aldi – had pastries & coffee at the bakery… Then we went to Inala shops were life went on unaffected. We went to Woolies for gloves, dettol &c, couldn’t find any candles… Distinctive smell of spices from Vietnamese shops… We both felt a bit shell shocked… Home… I went to C&C’s [the people we helped evacuate]. Water had been maybe 20cm above the floorboards. The men had a gurney & mothers in law were scrubbing windows (not flood!) etc. I helped the girls move furniture from rom to room for mopping purposes, until friends arrived with lunch & I left. The mailman came down Colwell St while I was there! And the post (everyone got some)? Water bills! I also saw a drowned gecko. People are piling their rubbish by the road & it all looks desaturated, almost greyscale… I hung my cap on gates as I went so B would see it if she went looking for me. At F’s I helped butter bread & then she took sandwishes & Lions Christmas cake down to the people (Amart staff!) helping clean out the house at the bottom of the school… Talked with F & J about life on the street when they had to wheel prams along Colwell St when it was a dirt road & G carried planks across Oxley Rd to build the house, turning sideways to let traffic by when it came along.

I pumped up the bike tyres b/c I thought it might be good to keep off the roads, then cycled down to Colwell. Didn’t know where B was & people don’t know names of helpers. I went to the end of the street – many worms in the gutters, curled & dead – & a bit along Oxley [Road] but of course the sidewalks were impassable [due to contents of houses]. Came back… drove back roads to Oxley… The FoodWorks was open, although it had no power. It didn’t have saucepans or candles either. You had to say what you wanted & one of the two girls would take you there so they could write down the price. (There is a mosquito near my head – I was reluctant to chase it away b/c its wings mad a slight, cool breeze). .. The street from the station to the BP on Oxley Road had been roughed up preparatory to roadworks just before the flood. Then there had been heavy rain, then it had been a major entry point when Oxley Rd was cut there, then it had been flooded. The houses either side had put everything in big piles on the curb. Now, approaching it, you can see a big haze of dust over it. .. Sherwood Woolies was open & had power! I bought a scented candle (they were out of the ordinary sort), a cold coke & a bag of ice… Did laundry in a bucket out the back. Diesel was doing his best to lok neglected. M from down the street dropped off bread & milk & sausages. I took the rolls up to F for feeding people. B arrived muddy & tired from shovelling gyprock that had been a ceiling… [It was] good to be useful. It would feel wrong to stop & read or draw. There are things I will miss when the power comes back – peace, quiet, talking, society, usefulness, simplicity. It makes sense now to be outside, have less, eate well & put things away where you won’t fall over them in the dark.

On radio Campbell Newman [Lord Mayor] talked about the volunteer assembly centres (none near us) & said to organise people between the 2 shifts tomorrow to – seriously, he said, I am serious – flip a coin – heads 7am, tails afternoon… I want to join an organisation that, in a crisis, makes sandwiches.

This morning there was blood spattered around Charlie’s cage & all smeared on the perch & wires. Charlie not obviously the worse for wear. Maybe he killed a gecko.

15.1.11 Sat

I feel like I’m living a different life. I’m out & doing things & talking to neighbours & in bed early & eating a great deal & not using any of my things or doing my usual stuff. And I like many things about it. I wonder if I will ask myself, when I buy things in future, whether I will want to carry them out in a flood… I am in bed with a candle burning & a wind-up torch on my chest pointed at the page… Up at 6. cold shower – can only do a limb at a time. I went down to [house on Colwell behind S’s parent’s] before 8… was helping bag up the contents of linen cupboards. At 9 I took A [who has no car] to Inala shops & the lady at Lifeline [opshop] let me plug my phone in… I went down for the tail of the community meeting at the [school] hall… A BCC [Brisbane City Council] bus of volunteers had come down Colwell in the morning. Then I went back to [the house on Colwell]. I washed down kitchen counters & the bath – really just washing silt off… R – a merchandiser for DMC [embroidery threads] – was one of the volunteers and liked cleaning so I asked her to consider me another pair of hands so she set me to cleaning skirting boards. I was sitting on the floor & using a bucket of water so got very muddy & slimy… It is all such a huge job. I was wiping the tiles in the kitchen & they started coming off in my hands. They use crowbars to take up disintegrating lino & take off the fronts of cabinets where drawers are swollen closed. I sympathise with everyone putting everything – even salvageable things out as rubbish – just not to have to deal with it & to go to an empty shell which only has to be cleaned. Very appealling – at least until you start cleaning & realise how much there is to do – & then it is good to have just one task to concentrate on… Little brown lizards kept coming into the house when I was cleaning – it must have been too muddy & loud & crowded out there. I would catch them & put them back out. From C & B’s verandah we can see the streetlights on 17 Mile Rocks Road, which is surreal, although there are more generators etc on this street than before.

Page 32

16.1.11 Sun

Threw out blanched vegetables from laundry sink [they had been there with ice]. Had tea & fruit toast at F’s. Left c8ish & drove through destruction to Indro [Indooroopilly – most service stations out of petrol] & got petrol, then back to Jindalee. McDonalds (24 hours) wasn’t opening until 10.30. Went to church – sludge over grass on roads near golf course, wandered in back roads to get there, & plugged phone in before I talked to anyone. Ian preached on 2 Cor 1. [Minister’s family] only came back from Zimbabwe on Monday night – asked a taxi driver how much to get home & he said, “Well, under normal circumstances…”. The As were flooded out & weren’t there but apparently have a lot of help. They’d been trying to sell their house & had taken it off to wait for better market conditions. K&A were there playing music. They were flooded out, too. They did get some stuff out – were even able to hire a truck! – and a lot of people went over & helped clean yesterday. The landlord was impressed that their minister was manning the bbq. [Various friends including K&A] went to Mt Ommaney & had coffee. I bought a cake w pink icing… & kettle & frying pan & ice etc… Had tea & cake w F & G & talked about how they met & he used to take her home on the last tram & then walk home & fall asleep in a phone booth & get woken up & moved on by the milkman. They met when 15… They are both 79.  Road over to Blunder Rd but it is still mostly blocked, so I rode to Oxley – footpaths are largely cleared but some narrow paths between things – muddy, well, everythings… I was very tired today. Wanted to cry or sleep but didn’t want to waste daylight.


I went back to work on Monday and the power came back that afternoon. Parts of the CBD are still evacuated. Few people can talk about anything except the flood. There are limited menus in restaurants and limited supplies of bread and milk in the grocery stores and there is a smell in the air which was dreadful until I recognised it as smelling exactly like a wet outdoor pig pen. And every afternoon there is a lightshow and another storm, and it makes us all twitchy.

13 thoughts on “Flood Diary – January 2011

    • Thank you all for your comments! Life is back to something like normal, although I am still cooking to relieve my feelings. Louie’s owners are back (although we still have Louie) but a lot of houses are dark. The storms which followed the flood washed away a lot of the pig-pen smell. Most, but not all, of the CBD buildings are open. There is green grass and blue sky and stars at night – and two cyclones coming in up north.

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this. I know you kept in touch with us using FB, but it’s good to know what was behind the cheery entries. I hope that the floods are past and that recovery is smooth.

  2. You sounded so cheerful and stoic on fb and sms, almost flippant… had no idea you were so stressed! Want to give you a big, big hug. So glad everything is all ok. Thanks for this entry – I wanted so much to know how it all was handled. It will be one of those things where everyone says “Where were you when?” and all I’ll be able to say is “In the UK.” Not that I could have been much use to anyone in the middle of it, but now I have moments where I get scared I’ll come home and everyone will be changed or scarred because of this thing you’ve all been through, and not be how I remember them. Anyhoo… great post!

  3. This is amazing. Thank you so much for recording, and sharing. I know just what you mean about the power being out – although we can’t live our lives as they are in 2011 without power, it’s nice to have a break from the normal routine.

  4. Pingback: Music Place Blog

  5. That’s a beautiful and detailed description Kathleen. Thanks. I always find personal accounts of life ‘on the ground’ in and after disasters fascinating (it’s the armchair sociologist and emergency management geek in me). Those accounts don’t normally come with evocative sketches though.

    I hope life continues to improve for all of our Eastern states, but appreciate that ‘normal’ may be a long way off. It’s always fascinating to see what we make of life once we’re taken out of the day-to-day worries and context. And discover, that despite what TV keeps trying to tell us, most people behave brilliantly in disaster situations.

  6. Thank you, Kathleen. In the Brunswick Valley we were completely lucky. We must have just been missed by that cloud that made all that rain.

    I appreciated reading your doubts and wanting to go out to check what other people were doing, and being with other people. That’s what it was like here, though not flooding, just the continuous rain, and the possibility of a flood looming.

    Even now I’ve been wondering whether I will keep such and such since I didn’t intend to save it anyway.

    And I have been wondering why people were throwing everything out.

  7. Thank you all for your comments! Life is back to something like normal, although I am still cooking to relieve my feelings. Louie’s owners are back (although we still have Louie) but a lot of houses are dark. The storms which followed the flood washed away a lot of the pig-pen smell. Most, but not all, of the CBD buildings are open. There is green grass and blue sky and stars at night – and two cyclones coming in up north.

  8. Pingback: Brisbane Fashion (sketchbook update) « Errantry

  9. Pingback: The Velveteen Dalek « Errantry

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s