Sunday, January 16, 2011

How Close Brisbane Came

By Darryl Mason

When the Brisbane River, swollen by floodwaters pouring down from mountain ranges and across the ancient floodplains, swollen further by a king tide surging in from the sea, finally hit its peak, it was more than one metre less than predicted. That is, far below the worst case scenario the Queensland government, emergency services and the Australian Defence Force were predicting, and were planning to respond to.

More than 20,000 Brisbane homes are believed to have been affected by the floodwaters. One more metre and the entire sprawl of houses across the centre of the below images would have gone under, along with thousands more streets of homes across Brisbane's suburbs, some to their floorboards some to their roofs. 60,000 perhaps even 80,000 homes, or more.

This was the closest of close calls.

A satellite image of Brisbane from January 13 follows. You can look around the image in greater detail for yourself, here :

And here's a Google Earth image of the normally non-flooded Brisbane :

After everything that the people of Brisbane have been through, everything the residents of hundreds of small towns & villages across Queensland have endured in the past months of what has so often been termed "biblical rains" by the news media and politicians, it seems unfathomable that the worst may be yet to come.

The land is soaked, a decade long dry sponge now squelching with water across hundreds of thousands of square kilometres. The rainy season has only just begun, the first cyclones of 2011 haven't even made landfall yet.

The Queensland government, the long range forecasters, as do the Australian Defence Forces, know full well what the worst case scenarios for "biblical" flooding could be this year, and it's a lot more Noah than what we've seen so far.

The Big Surprise will not be that this happens again in 2011, to Queensland, to Brisbane, to riverside towns, farms and villages down through New South Wales and into, across, Victoria.

The Big Surprise will be that it doesn't.

More to come....