This was the view from my office yesterday afternoon.

toowoomba flash flood 2011-4391

but lets start from the beginning, shall we? Ok, I’ll tell it how it is.

This is NOT some heroic rescue story. This is simply how I saw it. My account of what happened.

A bit of background for those NOT living in Toowoomba/QLD/Australia. Toowoomba is a city perched on a hill, 700m above sea level and I was just telling my relatives not to worry about the Queensland floods because Toowoomba is *immune* to floods. Yesterday, I ate my words. Also, I live on the very top of a hill, close to being at one of the highest point in Toowoomba, on about a +-10% incline.

Went to work yesterday morning, it was drizzling. Not the most normal of mornings but judging from the weather this past couple of weeks, nothing out of the ordinary.

Went back for lunch around 12.45pm – heavy rain.

At 1.30pm, I left for Noodle Box in Westridge to buy some lunch for Leon. I noticed that my garden was already flooded and at that point in time I remember thinking that it was pretty funny. I took one look outside and was greeted with this site:

toowoomba flash flood 2011-4362

Remember this is pretty much close to one of the highest points in Toowoomba, about 3/4 way up on a steep incline. That opposite side has NEVER had water running down it, so to have it fly over the curb like a wave is crazy. As I reversed down the driveway, the water splashed over my bonnet for the first time.

Headed to Westridge and parked right on the corner closest to shelter. I had an umbrella in the passenger seat but figured I’d make the one meter without getting drenched. I was wrong. I remember stepping out and noticing that the water was about an inch high. Why did I take notice? -because I was wearing my new leather shoes :(

3 minutes later, I walked out with my order and it was like a beach. Water gushing out of the drainpipes and drains didn’t help. When I got to my car the water rushed into my shoes (almost four inches).

Time from office to home for lunch: 10mins. It took me 30 minutes + major detours to get back to the office as I figured some places would be worse off than others. I later found out that I was right as the road that I was suppose to take has a steep incline and at about the same time I decided to take “the scenic route” a similiar sized car to mine tried to climb it (opposite direction from where I was heading) and ended up bogging down on the spot with water rushing over the bonnet. *phew*. As I drove down West Street, I followed a 4×4 pickup going not more than 20kmh. Now, there are small side streets that run into West Street every 50 meters or so. Everytime I saw that pickup go past one you could see the water slam into its sides. I only prayed that he wouldn’t stop because I had a feeling the water was at around the height of the car exhaust and didn’t want to let go of the accelerator.  I followed the highest roads I knew and passed a number of cars that had simply bogged down in the middle of the road and finally made it back.

toowoomba flash flood 2011-4376

toowoomba flash flood 2011-4381

When the rain stopped, I took my camera and walked outside to have a look. As the fog cleared up I could see the worst of it in the distance. (see first photo). I strolled down to have a closer look. I was greeted with a torrent of a current running through the road effectively splitting the entire city into East and West (below picture taken facing dead East).

toowoomba flash flood 2011-4392

After a couple of morons tried to go through it failed, officials came to seal off the road and traffic got rerouted away. As I turned the corner I noticed Goggs Street in the distance…

toowoomba flash flood 2011-4393

Only later did I realize that the reason the current was so strong was because the place in the picture below acted as a Delta where all the water from the higher grounds in the South side merged and ravaged the CBD (Central Business District) tearing apart everything in it’s path.

toowoomba flash flood 2011-4395

toowoomba flash flood 2011-4404

Even with water all over the place the water level wasn’t at its highest. At this point it is at about the height of a car tire. A couple of minutes later and its up again. Now its about as high as the button you press for the green man on a pedestrian crossing.

toowoomba flash flood 2011-4407

Of course there were the usual a bunch of people taking photos and videos. I’m all for that but why walk into the water? Remember how I said that manholes across the city have pushed their covers out and are now overflowing? What? I didn’t? Well, they are and the bacteria from those drains are now all over the place. Very hygienic indeed.

toowoomba flash flood 2011-4410

See this bulge in the water? That’s coz of the two cars that got swept like a bulldozer picking up a person and slamming it into a wall.

toowoomba flash flood 2011-4418

If you’re local you’ll see them repeat the video of this happening…right next to Repco (you’ll see it in the background). Viewed from the other side of this shot:

toowoomba flash flood 2011-4423

Close up for your viewing pleasure (gotta love the 70-300mm VR lens):

toowoomba flash flood 2011-4427

After a little while I thought I’d  better head back to do some work. I turned around and noticed something I hadn’t before: Prescott Street. It’s a little street running parallel to the flood that had its worst not too long ago. Have a look:

toowoomba flash flood 2011-4441

I went in for a closer look:

toowoomba flash flood 2011-4454

toowoomba flash flood 2011-4457

toowoomba flash flood 2011-4463

toowoomba flash flood 2011-4465

This is the Yamaha shop. You can see all the bikes ruined in the background…

toowoomba flash flood 2011-4464

At this point I had had enough. I headed back to the office after taking one last shot. It looks like he’s at a beach. On the left you can see some tiles from a sidewalk that had been torn out.

toowoomba flash flood 2011-4482

THE AFTERMATH

For the rest of the afternoon I got updates from colleagues including facebook photos/e-mails/videos and other third party info. So, after work I made it a point to visit some of the more severely hit places to see if I could get some photos of the aftermath. Got scolded by a policeman in the process – not to mention this very sad way to inaugurate my new shoes – by walking through dirt and mud!

toowoomba flash flood 2011-4506

toowoomba flash flood 2011-4507

Car bumper with no car…

toowoomba flash flood 2011-4509

toowoomba flash flood 2011-4511

toowoomba flash flood 2011-4518

Check out this slab of asphalt simply ripped up from a road. It looks small bit its about a meter wide:

toowoomba flash flood 2011-4519

toowoomba flash flood 2011-4520

Towing companies taking advantage of the situation… AUD66/tow multiplied by… 1,2,…3000000!

toowoomba flash flood 2011-4522

toowoomba flash flood 2011-4515

See that blue Mitsubishi Magna on the right(top)? That’s Winder and Iris’s car…now flooded with water :(

Below is Russell Street, one of the worst hit streets which saw brand new thousand+ dollar sofas simply thrown into the streets. People had helped clean them up by now and lined them up along the sidewalk.

toowoomba flash flood 2011-4528

People volunteering to help clean up the streets as best they could:

toowoomba flash flood 2011-4531

These were brand new sofas and La-Z-Boys not more than 24 hours ago…

toowoomba flash flood 2011-4537

Dirt and mud littering the downtown city centre:

toowoomba flash flood 2011-4540

The Coffee Club on Margaret Street was one of the worst hit. Glass was broken and water pouring out of the cafe. I dare not go closer so this is all I have:

toowoomba flash flood 2011-4541

Sidewalks were all piled up by the side of the road probably to be put back when the situation calms down.

toowoomba flash flood 2011-4545

All in all it has been an insane day. I’ve been told not to come into work today so I figured I’d write this post. Everyone I know is fine and there were forecasts of rain today but so far so good. Let’s hope it stays this way.

39 Responses to “Flash Flood hits Toowoomba CBD + Photos of Aftermath”

  1. Ngaire says:

    Best blog I have read so far.
    Fantastic photos

  2. Deidre says:

    I was in Toowoomba a couple of weeks ago and can’t remember a river. I just couldn’t work out where the water would have flowed. I still can’t really understand how it happened but at least you’ve explained how it unfolded. Thanks for taking the time to write as well as include all the photos.
    PS Hope your shoes are recoverable!

  3. Jiaren says:

    Thanks, Ngaire! I was just lucky I brought my camera to work during my lunch break.

    Hi Deidre, thanks for leaving a comment! Basically, Toowoomba’s on a mountain top (imagine a cake) and looking at it from the North, the landscape looks like the silhouette of the letter “M” (if you chop the whole thing in half) where that “valley” (Ruthven Street) splits the city down the middle into the east and west sides. Also, the North and South sides are significantly higher than the middle which just so happens to be the Toowoomba City CBD. With the rain pouring and the land all compacted from a drought longer than I’ve been here for the water from the south side (both east and west) have flowed toward the impromptu valley which runs right through the city centre. It came in from all directions and that main spot where I took the majority of photos became the “delta” (for lack of a better word), from there the water was concentrated into a single momentum of power destroying everything in it’s path. There is a drain just slightly to the south of where I took the photos which runs north going right through the city. The water pretty much followed that until it overflowed…

    That’s as best as I can explain it…hope that clarified it a little bit…

  4. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Liz Swinton. Liz Swinton said: RT @TimeMade: RT @benmeares: Some amazing photos of Toowoomba floods http://tinyurl.com/689aplh [...]

  5. Kathy says:

    Thanks Jiaren so much for explaining how this happened. We live in Brisbane and have stayed in Toowoomba many times and couldn’t believe how this could happen when it is so far above sea level! Thanks for taking the chances to get the photos, cause if you told someone about this without the photos they wouldn’t believe you – but these pics tell a thousand words.

    I wish we could come up to lend you all a hand but we are stuck in floods at the moment and can’t get out. It is so wonderful to see our Aussie spirit knows no boundaries and everyone just mucks in to help when our fellow Aussies are down.

    As soon as businesses are up and going we will be up to spend $$ to help you all get back up on your feet! Much thanks and our heartfelt condolences to those who lost loved ones, Best Regards, Kathy

  6. Kim says:

    H Jiaren…very comprehensive and your commentary added to the story — *the* best I have seen. I’ve linked it to my Face Book page, so your traffic will increase.
    You’re a great photographer as well.
    Toowoomba is my home town, and of course when I saw the video on the news I worried about family and friends.
    Thanks very much for putting this up.
    Cheers, Kim.

  7. Jiaren says:

    Hi Kathy, no worries, my pleasure…Brisbane was pretty badly hit. Life here is *almost* back to normal, people just about starting to back to business as usual. Indeed, I heard on the news that they’re equating this disaster with Hurricane Katrina. The only difference is after the hurricane hit the headlines were plagued with stories of people looting businesses/stealing stuff where as here everyone is helping each other out. It really is quite amazing.

    Hi Kim, thanks so much for the compliment. I really appreciate it. Never fails to cheer me up! I hope all your loved ones are safe and sound. I’m replying your post on FB now… :)

  8. Chrystle says:

    this is truely a great story, it really explains how it happened and gives you more of an idea of the timing and stuff…

    just 2 short questions,
    1) who is leon?
    and
    2) the person who was swept up with the 2 cars, are they alright or….?

  9. Jiaren says:

    Thanks, Chrystle (interesting spelling to an already cool name, btw)…Leon is my boss…he’d be in the office the whole day so I offered to buy him some takeaway as I was going home for lunch and would be passing by some eateries anyway…When I got back to the office the first thing I said was “You owe me big time for this” as I placed it on his desk to which he responded with “huh, why is that?” as I stood there drenched from head to toe. *accountants outside office laughing!*

    Oh, thankfully, no one was found in the three cars that were swept there…(just a couple of meters to the right of the bulge was another car but I didn’t upload any photos showing that one…)

  10. Karen says:

    Thanks for posting your story and photos, of course we’ve seen so much on TV, but now I’m wondering how it all began, what time did it start, etc. Your post helps to clarify some things, good job, hope you are all doing well in Toowoomba after this terrible tragedy.

  11. Jiaren says:

    Hi Karen,

    well, it had been raining all morning that by the time I arrived at the office (in the city) the car park was a big puddle already. By 12.30pm, it had turned into a tropical rainforest sort of downpour. 1pm was when it started as close as I can recall. I had just arrived home around this time and the road was fine. The lower places had started to rise around this time. 1.45pm is when it was at it’s worst – i.e. everywhere was flooded, even the road I had just taken to go back home (which was more than fine not more than an hour ago). At around 2.30pm the rain let up and the fogged cleared. The water from higher grounds rushed into the already swollen creek and flooded the CBD. Most other places were fine with the exception of some pot holes once the rain stopped…

    Thanks, life is *almost* back to normal here so we’re more worried about Brisbane actually…

  12. Suzanne says:

    Thanks Jiaren, its a great perspective. I often walk from the library to PCYC along the ‘West Creek’ drain, under that bridge. I knew it could get much higher than it usually is, but not to that extent. I was out on Sunday evening (the night before) and it was raining pretty heavily then with water getting to about an inch on the roads in Mt Lofty. I guess all this componded to Monday afternoon.

    In your first picture it looks like the tank that there is footage of getting sucked under the Margaret St bridge, before it actually got washed away! How cool!

  13. Chris Spe says:

    I am a born and bred Toowoomba-ite, living in the 25% of Queensland unaffected by any of these floods.
    Best analogy of Toowoomba’s topography is to think of a bowl with the western side somewhat cut away. Toowoomba is also a watershed so the rain in Toowoomba will end up heading west; the rain to the east – the range areas – will flow east into all those creeks that end up in the Lockyer, the Bremmer and then the Brisbane River.
    As a kid, I played in West Creek (and sometimes East Creek before they made that all pretty)…but in West Creek you could follow it down to the railyards (near Rowes) and then further to Willowburn and much later to when it becomes Gowrie Creek.
    I can remember a couple of times when the flood waters would lap at the Herries Street bridge and I remember one occasion when water lapped the railline at Herries Street but it was a gentle lapping flow with the wilder, strong current fighting over the bridge surface.
    Unfortunately, efforts to tame peaceful little streams has contributed to a tragedy as so many people have failed to acknowledge that Toowoomba translates as “the swamp”; that the whole area is a watershed; that landfilled areas do not make solid home building sites and that huge, huge rainfalls after extreme periods of drought makes not for pleasant endings.
    Jiaren, I thank you for your photos as I have been anxious to see other areas of my home town. I know Prescott and Gogg Streets, in fact, all of them. We lived in Wylie Street and also Hill Street when Myer had its own carpark in Hill Street (really only metres up from Dent Street).
    But just one,, thing for everyone – and this is the born and bred Toowoomba-ite in me speaking – please, West Creek IS a creek; it is not a drain. It seems to have been in disguise for some time for some people.

  14. Jean Styles says:

    I hope all members of Tmba Spinners & Weavers are safe and they can be assured that Kureelpa members are thinking of them.
    Having spent lots of time visiting when my daughter lived there I could not have imagined that such an event would ever occur on the top of the range, though the fact that it is in a bowl means that the water will pool and replace the original swamp. Certainly a horrifying event.

  15. Jiaren says:

    Hi Suzanne, I’ve actually seen it (West Creek “drain”) overflow a couple of times – even took some photos as I thought it was bizarre at the time. I knew it could get higher…in theory. Realistically though I – and everyone else I’m sure – didn’t think it would EVER happen. I had a look at the tank. At first I thought you might be right but in the last photo (man standing at beach alone) it’s still there in the background. By this time the current had calmed down so if it was still there when I took that shot I doubt it’s the same one you saw…could be wrong though!

    Hi Chris, thanks for the analogy – way better than mine! You’re welcome, appreciate the comment. I have business associates who operate on Wylie Street and am happy to say they escaped the water.

    Hi Jean, I hope your friends and loved ones are safe and sound. Hopefully, no major damages incurred either…

  16. Brooke says:

    I came across your blog while in google…Its just amazing…The photos are incredible to look at…The quality is great and they capture the moment so well…Well done…

  17. brendan says:

    what ime did the wall of water hit toowoomba thanks

  18. brendan says:

    what time did the wall of water hit toowoomba thanks

  19. Jiaren says:

    dont quote me on this but from memory it was around 2.33pm

  20. will says:

    it annoys me when people refer to it as a “wall of water” or an “inland tsunami”. these refer to the fact that it was a massive tidal wave, which suddenly swept through all at once. this had been flooding for a few minutes, and the water rose higher over another few minutes. to think it is an inland tsunami would mean that a massive wave just swept through, whereas with this it was flooding already before it began “flash-flooding” if that makes sense.

    im only 16, so that can be my excuse :)

  21. marlene says:

    Apuh, this is terrible and horrible AND VEGETABLE!!!
    didn’t know it was that bad!

  22. Hannah says:

    Thanks Jiaren I am doing this flood for a school prodject, it helped me a lot and i hope i get 100% for my info. Hope you and all are well in Toowoomba:)

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  24. christopher says:

    hi, this is honestly the best blog i have found so far on the horrific day that was the toowoomba floods i grew up in toowoomba and had nearly my first everything in this town so it obviously holds a great deal of respect in my heart and two move away only two days before and too turn the tv on in albury too see my home town being somewhat destroyed and all the locals in danger like that including my very best friends in family who some where in the CBD at the time of the water peaking and too see this respectful way of explaing what happend that day is really nice and acctually made me cry i hope we are lucky enough to never see this happen here again i am now living back in toowoomba with my family and it is still sad too see that the creek catchment running up the middle of the libary and grand central has received little to no attention at all but we manage to see council workers leaning up against trucks everywhere everyday cmon guys lets get a local team of volunteers together and finish the clean up OURSELVES and leave the roads and bridges to the bludgers i mean council… pun intenetd

  25. ScottMC says:

    These are great, Jiaren, you recorded the occasion really well. What would you do different ?

  26. DK says:

    Hi,

    Wow, this is a really kool blog with heaps of photos and captions. You’ve captured the essence of that day very well!

    DK

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  28. andile moyo says:

    this website is terrible and was a waste of time

  29. andile moyo says:

    hey killian and alec

  30. mojo says:

    hey mojo here i feel sorry for all of you

  31. mojo says:

    it must have been rough then I have a relative who lives in Toowoomba and he said it was horrible and it was depressing when it happened

  32. [...] by a more robust (and quite beautiful in its own right) metal bridge but for a long time after the 2011 floods, the warning yellow tape, and then the gap and then the shiny new bridge were all ongoing reminders [...]

  33. Freya says:

    i give all my wishes to those who died

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