By Dominique Tassell and Emily-Rose Toohey
The Southern Downs Region has been hit hard by the worst flood seen in the past decade.
Residents of Fitzroy Street in Warwick were met on Friday morning by rising water.
“It came up so fast,” local Wendy Roger-Claxton said.
She wants to thank those who helped her during the flood, particularly Les, Tash, and Phil.
Helen Harm Real Estate’s Helen Harm also experienced the impact of flooding on Fitzroy Street and said by 11.30 am on Friday morning, water started coming through the floorboards.
“This is the fourth major flood I’ve experienced,” Helen said.
“Since the Bunnings has gone there, the water comes in a different direction.
“I don’t have insurance because my block is near and prone to flooding.”
Despite the event’s urgency, she said that the community were great and willing to help out.
“However, some people do come and stare, so if you’re not going to help the community, have respect and stay away,” Helen said.
Across the road from Helen’s business, the majority of locals living at the Pioneer Cottages have been evacuated to housing elsewhere in town, with cleaners now trying to get the homes habitable again.
The cottages were reportedly bought after World War II and were originally available for those suffering from PTSD.
Southern Downs Regional Council (SDRC) later bought them and has used them as low-income housing since.
One resident of the Pioneer Cottages has lived there for 15 years and witnessed four floods.
He said the situation is now just getting him down.
“I don’t want to look at it,” he said.
The water hit the bottom of his bed, he said, which is not as bad as the 2011 floods but has still left many with their property destroyed.
He said he is couch-surfing at the moment, as he is worried about mould in his cottage.
The local said residents will eventually get back inside their homes and be comfortable for the time being.
“Until the next flood,” he said.
Some locals have questioned why the cottages have not been raised, considering their position and the damage done during past floods.*
Warwick East State School on Fitzroy Street was also heavily affected by the flood.
A spokesperson for the Department of Education stated that the school experienced “extensive damage” during the flood.
This includes damage to classrooms and amenities, as well as to the play areas, tennis court and the school oval.
The National school building onsite was also heavily impacted by floodwaters.
The spokesperson stated initial rectification works have commenced and a heritage consultant will be engaged to assess the current state of the building and oversee necessary rectification works.
They also stated that QBuild has arranged for the reconnection of electrical services to the majority of the school buildings.
Rectification works commenced on Sunday, 15 May 2022 with priority areas addressed in the first instance.
Works will be ongoing throughout the week.
Warwick East SS was closed on Monday 16 May and Tuesday 17 May, the only schools in the Darling Downs South West region to do so.
Ten state schools were closed in the Southern Downs on Friday, 13 May due to flood-related access concerns.
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 Yangan State School.
During the flooding, Warwick Indoor Recreation and Aquatic Centre (WIRAC) was activated as an evacuation centre for locals.
While pets were not allowed in WIRAC, the SDRC pound worked with the centre to take in displaced cats and dogs.
An SDRC spokesperson stated that the fee to return animals is being waived due to the natural disaster.**
Businesses throughout the region were also heavily impacted by the event, including United Service Station located close to the OO Madsen Bridge.
Due to their proximity to the river, they could not escape flood damage.
United Service Station manager Sarah Weidman said, all things considered, the business was pretty lucky.
“We lost a bit of stock and food because our freezers were knocked over,” Sarah said.
As of Tuesday morning, the service station was still closed but Sarah said she hoped to reopen later in the week with limited stations.
“We’ve been flooded in the past, either during the 2011 or 2013 floods, but we were not expecting it this time,” she said.
Towards the other end of town, Warwick Showgrounds was inundated with floodwater.
Warwick Show and Rodeo Society secretary Terri Gilbert said the event was pretty catastrophic and had a major impact on the grounds.
“The arena will be out of use until late July as all the sand was washed away,” Terri said.
“There was massive debris throughout the grounds and we spent all weekend cleaning up – it needs major work.”
Staff were advised to stay at home on Friday morning and Terri said many were trapped.
“It was left to a small band of wonderful volunteers on Friday to get things to higher ground,” she said.
“Luckily, all the higher areas are fine.”
Warwick Gymnastics Club, a notorious site for flooding, was impacted around 3 am on Friday morning.
Warwick Gymnastics Club president Coby Walker said he is usually concerned during wet weather events, and this time he knew there was too much rain to ignore.
“One of my colleagues went to check the club,” Coby said.
“The water went through the normal part of the complex, and they managed to get the mats up before the water came right through.
“But there are still pools of water underneath the complex from previous flooding – Council has agreed to remove the pipe that has increased the water flow, although we haven’t heard from them since.”
Furthermore, Coby said this is the club’s sixth major flood and 11th or 12th minor flood.
“It’s happened so often that it’s now the luck of the draw as to whether we’re able to move the equipment in the event of flooding,” he said.
Outside of Warwick, Killarney Autoworks’ Paul Fox said his business became flooded on Thursday night after the village’s main street was inundated.
“We sustained 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 pm on Thursday.”
During the aftermath of a night of heavy rainfall, he said that the Friday consisted of cleaning his business.
“Although the flood level wasn’t as high, a flood’s a flood and there’s water where you don’t want it,” Paul said.
Back in Warwick, the Warwick District Football Association was also impacted, with floodwater covering the field and flooding their equipment shed.
However, a band of volunteers stepped up over the weekend to help clean up the mess left behind.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) Media stated that from 3 am to 3 pm on Friday 13 May, QFES responded to 27 calls across the state.
Fire and Rescue performed 17 water rescues in the South East region, and one water rescue in the South West region.
Statewide, there were 441 calls for State Emergency Services (SES) assistance and 227 were flood-related.
In the South East 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 back up and running as of Monday night.
Reportedly, the damage was minimal.
Killarney Fire Station did not pick up when called.
*SDRC was asked to comment on the Pioneer Cottages but did not respond in time for print.
**SDRC was asked how many people used the evacuation centre, and how many animals were surrendered to the pound but did not respond with a comment in time for print.