Biggest moments of 2011 #2 Water, water everywhere
Early this year, in the middle of the wettest La Nina summer in 40 years, a vast swathe of south-east Australia went underwater. Dozens of towns and larger centres were inundated in Victoria, Queensland and to a lesser extent New South Wales. At least 35 lives were lost in Queensland.
The flooding came in several waves. Large areas of regional Qld were inundated in December 2010, from the Darling Downs to the Burnett and beyond. When the second wave came in early January, it came even harder and faster, with devastating results.
The Toowoomba flash flood was the moment this event turned from a slow inundation best viewed from choppers to an outright disaster where destruction was both brutal and swift. The floodwaters cascaded from the crest of the Great Divide into the Lockyer Valley, where the impact on towns like Grantham was beyond belief.
Brisbane and Ipswich were next, with around 25,000 properties inundated. Ironically, much of the damage was worse than that inflicted by Cyclone Yasi up north a few weeks later, and it was a Category 5 storm.
Than a few days later, Victoria began to go under.
What happened next
In the immediate aftermath, we mourned the dead and celebrated the Australian spirit of mateship, which was writ large through the volunteers who chipped in with mops, brooms and pure muscle.
Then came two almighty stoushes, which continue to rumble along. The first concerned the release of water from Brisbane’s Wivenhoe Dam. The other fight involved ordinary householders and businesspeople versus the insurance industry. Some were covered by “flooding” but not “flash flooding”. Others had other problems with the fine print.
If one good thing comes from last summer’s inundation, let it be that the word “flood” on an insurance policy means any kind of inundation to a property. We’re not holding our breath.
Oh, and lest we forget the flood levy, which was mooted in late January and came into effect in July. We ain’t editorialising an inch on this one.
What we learned
That insurers are bastards, that excess water in Wivenhoe Dam should have been released earlier, and that when meteorologists warn of higher than normal sea temperatures in our northern waters (the main sign of a La Nina year), we should take them seriously.
Oh, and we learned and that our readers don’t like new taxes. Mind you, we learned that in about every third story this year.
How The Punch covered it
Before this wrap, we had 44 stories with the “Queensland Floods” tag. Often, natural disasters are difficult stories to cover for an opinion website, They are inherently newsy, non-opiniony stories.
This disaster was different, because of the levy, the Dam and god knows what else. You can click here and see the 44 stories for yourself. A few quick picks include Penbo on the humanity of Anna Bligh, that Rudd fella on the good eggs in Gen Y who helped out the victims, Nine’s Michael Usher defending the ethics of his Grantham coverage, and water expert Andrew Dragun on the Wivenhoe debacle,
They’re forecasting another La Nina summer. You all stay dry out there, you hear?
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