The region goes under | Warwick today and Stanthorpe today


By Dominique Tassell and Emily-Rose Toohey

The Southern Downs region has been hit hard by the worst flooding in a decade.

Residents of Fitzroy Street in Warwick were greeted by rising waters on Friday morning.

“It happened so fast,” said local Wendy Roger-Claxton.

She wants to thank those who helped her during the flood, especially Les, Tash and Phil.

Helen Harm Real Estate Helen Harm was also impacted by flooding on Fitzroy Street and said at 11.30am on Friday morning water started coming through the floors.

“This is the fourth major flood I’ve experienced,” Helen said.

“Since the Bunnings have been there, the water has been coming in a different direction.

“I don’t have insurance as my block is close and prone to flooding.”

Despite the urgency of the event, she said the community was great and willing to help.

“However, some people come and watch, so if you’re not going to help the community, respect and stay away,” Helen said.

Across from Helen’s business, the majority of residents living at the Pioneer Cottages have been evacuated to accommodation elsewhere in the town, with cleaners now trying to make the homes habitable again.

The cottages are believed to have been purchased after World War II and were originally available for people with PTSD.

The Southern Downs Regional Council (SDRC) then purchased them and have since used them as low-income housing.

A resident of Pioneer Cottages has lived there for 15 years and has witnessed four floods.

He said the situation only depressed him.

“I don’t want to watch it,” he said.

The water hit the bottom of its bed, he said, which was not as bad as the 2011 floods, but still left many with their belongings destroyed.

He said he’s been surfing on the couch right now because he’s been worried about mold in his cabin.

The local said residents will eventually return home and feel comfortable for the time being.

“Until the next flood,” he said.

Some locals wonder why the chalets weren’t raised, given their position and the damage caused during past floods.*

Warwick East State School on Fitzroy Street was also heavily affected by the flooding.

A spokesman for the Department of Education said the school had suffered “significant damage” during the flooding.

This includes damage to classrooms and equipment, as well as playgrounds, the tennis court and the school ring.

The national school building on site was also heavily affected by the floodwaters.

The spokesperson said initial rectification work has begun and a heritage consultant will be engaged to assess the current condition of the building and oversee any necessary rectification work.

They also said QBuild has made arrangements for the reconnection of electrical services to the majority of school buildings.

Rectification work began on Sunday, May 15, 2022 with priority areas addressed first.

Work will continue throughout the week.

Warwick East SS was closed on Monday May 16 and Tuesday May 17, the only schools in the Darling Downs South West area to do so.

Ten state schools were closed in the Southern Downs on Friday May 13 due to flood-related access issues.

The schools closed were Allora P-10 State School, Applethorpe State School, Glen Aplin State School, Greenlands State School, Karara State School, Killarney P-10 State School, Leyburn State School, Murray’s Bridge State School, Warwick East State School and École of Yangan State.

During the flood, the Warwick Indoor Recreation and Aquatic Center (WIRAC) was activated as an evacuation center for residents.

While pets were not allowed at WIRAC, the SDRC pound worked with the center to accommodate displaced cats and dogs.

A spokesperson for the SDRC said the cost of returning the animals is waived due to the natural disaster.**

Businesses across the region were also heavily impacted by the event, including the United gas station near the OO Madsen Bridge.

Due to their proximity to the river, they could not escape flood damage.

United Service Station manager Sarah Weidman said that, all things considered, the company has been pretty lucky.

“We lost some stock and food because our freezers got knocked over,” Sarah said.

As of Tuesday morning, the gas station was still closed but Sarah said she hoped to reopen later in the week with limited stations.

“We have been flooded in the past, either in the floods of 2011 or 2013, but we didn’t expect it this time,” she said.

Towards the other end of town, Warwick Showgrounds was inundated by floodwaters.

Warwick Show and Rodeo Society secretary Terri Gilbert said the event was quite a disaster and had a major impact on the pitch.

“The arena will be out of use until the end of July as all the sand has been washed away,” Terri said.

“There was massive debris all over the pitch and we spent the whole weekend cleaning up – it needs a major job.”

Staff were told to stay home on Friday morning and Terri said many were trapped.

“It was left to a small group of wonderful volunteers on Friday to get things done,” she said.

“Fortunately, all upper areas are fine.”

Warwick Gymnastics Club, a notorious site for flooding, was hit around 3am on Friday morning.

Warwick Gymnastics Club chairman Coby Walker said he was usually worried during wet weather events, and this time he knew there was too much rain to ignore.

“A colleague of mine went to check the club out,” Coby said.

“The water came through the normal part of the complex and they managed to get the mats up before the water came through.

“But there are still puddles of water under the complex following previous flooding – the council have agreed to remove the pipe which increased the water flow, although we haven’t heard of any them since.”

Additionally, Coby said it was the club’s sixth major flood and the 11th or 12th minor flood.

“It’s happened so often that it’s now the chance of the draw to know if we are able to move the equipment in the event of a flood,” he said.

Outside Warwick, Paul Fox of Killarney Autoworks said his business was flooded on Thursday evening after the high street in the village flooded.

“We suffered damage to premises and equipment – I’ve been flooded about five times in 15 years,” Paul said.

“We started preparing for the worst around 3 p.m. Thursday.”

The day after a night of heavy rain, he said Friday was all about cleaning up his business.

“Although the flood level wasn’t that high, a flood is a flood and there is water where you don’t want it,” Paul said.

Back in Warwick, the Warwick District Football Association were also affected, with floodwaters covering the pitch and flooding their equipment shed.

However, a group of volunteers stepped up over the weekend to help clean up the mess left behind.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) media said that from 3 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday May 13, the QFES responded to 27 calls across the state.

State Emergency Services (SES) conducted 17 water rescues in the South East region and one water rescue in the South West region.

Statewide, there were 441 SES assistance calls and 227 were flood-related.

In the Southeast region, there were 79 calls for SES assistance, 29 of which were flood-related.

In the South West region, there were 62 calls for SES assistance, 45 of which were flood-related.

Warwick Fire Station on Canning Street was flooded due to its proximity to the Condamine River and was operational again on Monday evening.

Apparently the damage was minimal.

Killarney Fire Station did not pick up when called.

*SDRC was asked to comment on Pioneer Cottages but did not respond in time for print.

**SDRC was asked about the number of people who used the evacuation center and the number of animals impounded, but did not respond with a comment in time for print.


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