WHEN DISASTER STRIKES: Floods, fires that defined a decade
From floods to fires, wild thunderstorms to crippling drought, Southern Downs residents are no strangers to extreme weather and disasters.
It was all hands on deck for emergency services, SES volunteers, and community members to give those affected by the often-devastating events a fighting chance.
These were some of the most significant natural events and disasters to hit the Southern Downs in the past decade:
The 2011 floods that swept across Warwick were arguably the most devastating and memorable weather event of the past decade.
The first floodwaters washed across the Rose City in late December, 2010, causing Freestone Creek to burst its banks and sparking fears Leslie Dam would begin to overflow.
Those concerns were confirmed in the second wave of flooding in January, 2011, with the dam overflowing at 60,000ML per day and widespread flooding and many evacuations across Warwick.
The region was left with a $100 million damages bill after the December floods, and Southern Downs Regional Council reported another $40 million in repairs to roads and infrastructure.
TALGAI DAM BURSTING
Dozens of residents were evacuated when Bolzan Quarry Dam in Talgai burst on February 15 last year.
Water began gushing from a 3.5m hole in the 430ML dam, with emergency services and then-Southern Downs Mayor Tracy Dobie issuing a warning to 5000 residents between Talgai West Road and Dalrymple Creek Road.
The breach in the wall expanded to about 5m, with the dam continuing to leak intermittently into the neighbouring creek.
Evacuated residents were eventually able to return to their homes after several days, with minimal property damage reported.
WARWICK EAST SCHOOL FIRE
Warwick residents are unlikely to forget the day an enormous fire tore through Warwick East State School in July, 2019, decimating parts of one of Queensland’s oldest schools.
A Department of Education spokesman told the Daily News at the time it was most likely an electrical fault that sparked the fire, with no suspicion of arson.
Now almost two years after the fire, a multimillion restoration project is underway, which will leave the school with a two-storey learning centre and new administration building.
The popular Southern Downs town and tourist destination has seen its fair share of floods in the past decade.
Killarney’s main street was swamped by floodwaters during the 2011 disaster, which prompted the installation of an $80,000 warning system four years later.
It was almost exactly two years later when disaster struck again in January, 2013.
With SES volunteers door-knocking to warn residents of the severe weather, businesses were able to make hasty arrangements to protect their stock and livelihoods.
Even the best preparations couldn’t prevent much of Willow Street going under, with dozens of residents pitching in to help clean up.
Forcing countless families off the land and others into severe hardship, this drought has left almost no member of the community unscathed.
One of the most devastating bushfire events to hit the region in years, the 2019 Stanthorpe bushfires forced hundreds of residents to flee their properties.
Power was cut to thousands of homes in the Stanthorpe and Warwick areas for public safety, and a significant number of roads and properties were damaged.
Communities across the Southern Downs rejoiced when a deluge of rain hit the region in February last year, after months of seemingly endless drought.
Up to 140mm fell in areas across the region, with flood warnings put in place for Warwick, Stanthorpe, and Goondiwindi.
The Condamine River, Glengallan Creek, and Dalrymple Creek rose by several metres, and a number of Warwick roads were cut off by floodwaters.
The huge rainfall totals also swelled dam levels, with Leslie Dam rising from 7.66 per cent to 10.14 per cent in less than a day.