27 February 2022
By William O’Chee
Exceptionally heavy rainfall on the East Coast of Australia has flooded the river city of Brisbane, and with it, its many rowing clubs.
All rivers are prone to flooding, but when Brisbane floods it does so in spectacular fashion. The city’s eponymous river snakes 344km from its headwater at Mount Stanley, through the Wivenhoe Dam, and then ultimately through the Brisbane CBD before envying into Moreton Bay some 15km downstream. Most of the time the river is wide, languid, and for its last 85km to the sea, tidal.
The average February rainfall for Brisbane is 159 mm, but it has received over 735 mm in less than four days. And with a catchment area of over 7,000 km2, such spectacular rainfall can have only one result.
The last time the Brisbane Rover flooded was in January 2011, when the Brisbane River peaked at 4.46m at the Brisbane Admiralty Office, and some 20,000 houses were inundated. With a high tide due early on Monday morning (local time) the current forecast is for the river to peak at 3.7m, but that will be sufficient to flood a number of low-lying suburbs throughout the city.
Most at risk are the city’s rowing clubs, which cluster mainly just upstream of the CBD at South Brisbane. As at the time of writing, the rowing sheds of Commercial Rowing Club, Nudgee College & All Hallows, Brisbane State High School, Rowing Queensland and Brisbane Grammar & Brisbane Girls Grammar Schools had all been inundated.
As the river came up, frantic text messages from the clubs and schools summoned volunteers to move boats and equipment top higher ground before the arrival of the flood waters. Lines of boats on nearby roads and carparks attest the fact the calls were successful.
Worst affected was St Margaret’s School downstream at Breakfast Creek. The school rowing shed was entirely submerged, and their pontoon ripped from its moorings. At South Brisbane, the Brisbane Grammar School and Brisbane Girls Grammar School rowing shed was inundated with water reaching up to the level of its mezzanine floor. Upstream, all of the clubs along the Toowong Reach were flooded as well and will require substantial clean-up work.
Away from the main channel of the Brisbane River, the city’s other watercourses have all broken their banks. 2 km north of the Brisbane River, I filmed the normally placid Kedron Brook in full rage.
This stream is ordinarily less than a metre deep, and three or four metres wide. Swollen with rainwater it had become a gushing, 200m wide inland sea that drowned the neighbouring sports fields, and rose four metres over the railings of the road bridge.
Continuing rains will test the city’s flood defences. In all probability most residents will be spared the inundation of their houses, but only time will tell.