2011 floods, 10 years on

Posted: 4pm 11 Jan 2021

Parts of the Moreton Bay Region endured flooding in the weeks leading up to the devastating 2011 floods in Brisbane, the Lockyer Valley and Ipswich. But that didn’t stop weary local SES volunteers from answering the call, as Alan Peterson remembers …

Alan, who was the Arana Hills SES Group Leader at the time and is now Moreton Bay SES Deputy Local Controller says there was no question they would help communities to the region’s south.

“When the Brisbane floods went through, we had a couple of members on standby for flood boat activation,” he recalls.

“They wanted to get into it. They had been going for two to three weeks with flooding at Caboolture, Beachmere had been cut off, the North Pine Dam areas had flooded, the north and south parts of Pine Rivers had been split, and in Highvale there had been landslips.

“One family in Highvale had their home covered by a mud slide up there. It was heartbreaking to see these people and what they were going through but we had to keep our resolve and keep going.”

Image credit: Kingbob86, Wikipedia Creative Commons, accessible at:

Devastating scenes

He remembers moving around the Brisbane city, in undercover carparks at Pinkenba helping maritime personnel remove debris from jetties and answering calls for help at Rosalie.

“Milton Road was completely cut and homes along the river had water up to their first-floor levels,” he says.

In the end, more than 70 SES members from across the Moreton Bay Region didn’t hesitate to help, and help they did.

“Our members had to switch to a different mode. The devastation and how far spread the damage was and how far the flooding went from the Brisbane River…,” he says.

They were there to help Brisbane City Council direct the mud army, when thousands of ordinary Queenslanders boarded buses and arrived in flood-stricken communities.

Alan says SES personnel would embark on reconnaissance to identify areas most in need of help.

It’s the efforts of the mud army and SES volunteers that stand out in Alan’s memory.

He says the roads were covered in six inches of mud and the task was enormous, with houses needing to be cleared of debris and washed out.

“It was organised chaos. I think that was a result of putting out a thing saying we need people without knowing what you’re going to do with them,” he explains.

Challenging assignment

After a couple of days, SES members were sent to Grantham to perform difficult search and recovery operations needed in the wake of a tsunami of water which devastated the town and claimed 16 lives across the Lockyer Valley.

“It was pretty full-on once we got there. What we were seeing was bits and pieces here and there and we wondered how these people are going to survive,” Alan recalls

Just getting there was difficult, then teams had to cover challenging terrain in stifling hot conditions in a grim search for the missing.

“We went there with the knowledge of what we were looking for,” he says.

Delivering much-needed supplies to residents was also difficult and, in some cases, took weeks.

This was different

While Moreton Bay Region SES crews had experienced severe storms, including the devastating “Gap Storm” of 2008, this was different.

“This was a prolonged amount of rain and then we started to get the floods coming through,” Alan explains.

“You can’t get into the car and drive to these people. People realised they had to be self-sufficient for a period of time.

“When it happens, the members come out of the woodwork and want to get on with the job. Members were down there in mud up to their knees washing and cleaning houses.”

He says they were never short of food, with grateful residents and others providing biscuits, scones and more to keep them going.

“They were very appreciative we were there doing the job and offered any resources they could that made it easier for us because we just got on with the job,” he says.

Mayor says anniversary a timely reminder

“I hope people use the anniversary of the 2011 Brisbane floods as a reminder to be ready for the storm season and not to take any unnecessary risks around flood floodwater,” Moreton Bay Region Mayor Peter Flannery says.

“Just last month, on Monday 14 December, our region was impacted by a storm tide event which affected several areas in Moreton Bay, cutting some roads and causing coastal erosion.

“Our beaches, estuaries, canals and seaside spots are synonymous with our lifestyle and the appeal of our region. We know we need to do more to preserve these important features in the face of a changing climate.”

Moreton Bay Regional Council’s Living Coast program is looking at how the coastal landscape can be best managed into the future - but needs residents’ help

Council is always looking for ways to improve and enhance our lifestyle and environment, so head online to have your say today and help plan for the future of our coastline:

“By understanding how our bays, beaches and estuaries are used and loved by the community, we can better prepare for natural changes caused by coastal hazards,” Mayor Flannery says.

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