Heavy rain during the tropical wet season regularly isolates Airlie Beach by flooding the only road, and blocks rail travel and train services and air travel. Tourists are stranded in town, with no way to escape the flooded roads.
During heavy rain, low lying shops on the main street of Airlie Beach risk being flooded as Airlie Creek meets high tides. Water from the surrounding hills has no place to go. The local Chemcoast pharmacy was flooded in early February 2008, and repairs are expected to take all of March. Windows were shattered by mattresses and other objects being carried out past Beaches backpacker hostel on the other side of Airlie Beach Road. A car parked in Shute Harbour Road, the main street of Airlie Beach, was also swept aside by the flood waters. Here are some Airlie Beach flooding photos I took.
The flooded Chemcoast Pharamacy in the main street of Airlie Beach was actually not able to reopen for business until 26 May 2008, nearly four months after the Airlie Beach town centre flooded from the overflowing Airlie Creek. They were covered by insurance, but would obviously have missed much trade.
The Whitsunday Times newspaper report on Airlie Creek flooding local supermarket and chemist shop in Shute Harbour Road, the main street, in 2008.
In July 2008, Whitsunday Regional Council were still being asked for information about their flood mitigation works for Airlie Creek by former Councillor and local business owner Alan Dufty. Council say design is being done, and they are negotiating with property owners for access. Council have been receiving developer contributions from hillside property owners, so I wonder just what these received for their money? Given that drains along Shute Harbour Road at Jubilee Pocket that are not on other property are not being cleared of flood debris, I find myself wondering just how much will ever be done?
In addition to flooding in the main street of Airlie Beach in 2008, homes were flooded in nearby Jubilee Pocket. A motel on the low side of Hermitage Drive, Airlie Beach suffered flood damage from storm water coming via a construction site higher on Mount Whitsunday. Widespread stripping of trees and vegetation by developers is being blamed by many in the community for the damage done around Airlie Beach.
The State government acted quickly and appropriately, and declared Airlie Beach a flood disaster area.
According to the Bureau of Meteorology, floods are a problem Australia wide.
Loop Road, north of Shute Harbour Road in Jubilee Pocket was another flooded area in January 2008. Councillors will check Campbell Creek in September. Drains installed by developers are often blocked by debris over the years. Being on private land, drains and debris traps are not always cleared. Culverts under Shute Harbour Road are designed for ten year flood events. These Main Roads culverts are also often partially blocked by debris.
In mid December 2008, Council noted that since October contracting staff had removed 400 truck loads of debris from the Campbell Creek area. While I am delighted council have acted, I note that December is already wet season. It is only luck that there wasn't another flood.
Record rainfall in November 2010 ended the Proserpine Mill cane crush. A half million tons of cane could not be harvested. This meant a loss of up to $25 million to the sugarcane industry. This loss is despite record high world sugar prices around $480 a tonne. The loss followed massive sugar cane losses following Cyclone Ului in March 2010.
In March 2011, Whitsunday Council were reported to be getting $91 million under Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA)for 2011 floods. This is for repairs to existing roads by June 2012. Repairs already underway in 2011 were caused by floods in 2009.
The Peter Faust flood control dam west of Proserpine was built between 1986 and 1990. It was not expected to fill for ten years. However during massive rain the following year, the dam reached 98.5% full in March 1991, a level not repeated until 2010. Levels sank to just 10% by 2007. By November 2010 it was back up to 90.6% full. In mid December 2010, Peter Faust Dam was 200mm below the spillway. This was 98.2% capacity. It was holding 481,387 mega litres of water. Then came the rains. On 21 December 2010, three days after Peter Faust (owner of Proserpine Station) celebrated his 80th birthday, the dam broke the record. SunWater reported the dam reached 99.3% capacity, 486745 mega litres.
By early January 2011, the Peter Faust dam was 103.9% full, with 40 cm of water going over the spillway. It was holding 509185 mega litres, against a design capacity of 491400 mega litres.
Peter Faust dam reached a record 113.8% capacity in early April 2011, holding 550,000 megalitres of water. The seating, BBQ areas, and car parks are being flooded. Operators are releasing 6000 megalitres a day.
When the Peter Faust dam is full it is a wonderful boating and fishing spot, with barramundi and red claw.
A car was swept off the Bruce Highway at Lethebrook, 5 km south of Proserpine, on Wednesday 19 January 2011. Luckily the driver was able to be rescued from a nearby tree. Even the main highway north is dangerous in Queensland. Do not take chances in flood water, no matter how shallow it appears.
Where the Rainforest meets the Sea, until the developers arrived, and the golden sand comes in dump trucks.