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Brisbane Flood!
January 18, 2011 8:17 PM   Subscribe

Before and After the Flood. Startling pictures of recent events in Brisbane.
posted by not_that_epiphanius (45 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Holy cow. The flooding is unbelievable. The technique used to display the before and after is pretty amazing as well.
posted by booksherpa at 8:34 PM on January 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


That's a fascinating interface...
posted by HuronBob at 8:37 PM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Before and After: Haiti Earthquake
Before and After: Katrina

How to capture a disaster in photos: scenes of intimate personal suffering or satellite images of wide-scale destruction... I guess those are the money shots when it comes to covering disasters visually, the ones that distill an entire, wretched event into one shot. Trying to imagine one would fit between those two in scale, but I'm blanking...
posted by jng at 8:39 PM on January 18, 2011


One of my good buddies lives in Toowoomba, Queensland and he got off lucky. But it was the exclamation mark in the title that really brought it home for me.

Thanks!
posted by I love you more when I eat paint chips at 8:51 PM on January 18, 2011


Crikey.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:00 PM on January 18, 2011


Amazing interface. That's the way to do it.
posted by yesster at 9:06 PM on January 18, 2011


It is really neat. You can see my mum's house on the St Lucia photo and it's shocking how close the flood waters came to her street. Fortunately the maps don't show elevation and she was never in any real danger, being on a hill.

Still, wow.
posted by Silentgoldfish at 9:23 PM on January 18, 2011


The presentation is fascinating. The information being presented is horrifying.

I gave the Australian Red Cross some money during the fires a couple of years ago. I think maybe I need to do that again.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:25 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


My god.
posted by rtha at 9:32 PM on January 18, 2011


Glad your mom was okay, Silentgoldfish. It looks like a lovely place to live in, under normal circumstances. From my not-very-well informed impressions of Australia, Brisbane sounds like a cool city to live in, as a rule.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 9:48 PM on January 18, 2011


Another place to donate if you're able to help is the Flood Relief Appeal, which is the 'official' one. Red Cross and the usual groups who are good at handling disasters are also a good bet for making sure your money gets used responsibly.
posted by harriet vane at 10:07 PM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Video of cars being swept away by Toowoomba flash flood.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:07 PM on January 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


A number of these pics illustrate a design feature in city planning - make flood zones into parks. In some places, the parks, ball fields and open spaces are flooded, but the adjacent areas aren't. In more places though, the flooding is just clearly overwhelming.

I am looking for the frequency designation for the latest flooding - 100 year flood? 500? Most places I have dealt with in the U.S., the design standard is to accommodate a 100 year flood (which is pretty much a minimum standard). Curious to know how it's managed in Australia.

It's heartbreaking for the people who lost family and friends, too.
posted by Xoebe at 10:10 PM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Holding back the flood - lessons from a first-world city
posted by neal at 10:12 PM on January 18, 2011


neal, I have no idea who Kerwin Datu is (from your link), but s/he gets several facts wrong, repeating a few fallacies about Brisbane's management of the Wivenhoe Dam, spouted off by Germaine Greer and the Australian.
posted by wilful at 10:21 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


John Tyson takes comfort from the fact his son will forever lie in the symbolic embrace of his mother.

It helps to know that his Donna and his Jordan have been laid to rest together, just as they died together.

[...]

"Mum, the mother of us four little pricks, how you managed is beyond me. I went to you for all my problems, we all did. I don't know how we are supposed to manage now," Chris said.

"Jordan, or as we called you, Weedsy, I always hung shit on you for being such a sook, you were so shy, always hanging off mum," he said.

"You were petrified of water, heights, and even the dark. How wrong was I? Here you go losing your life from one of your biggest fears to save your little brother. You made me so proud. What you did took heart, courage and love. You're my little hero. I love you Weedsy, you'll always be missed mate.

"But I take comfort in the fact that you've got mum there with you taking care of you. Give her a kiss for me mate, I love ya."

Today's was the first of the funerals for the victims of the Queensland floods.


Something in my eye, as they say.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:28 PM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's hard to keep developers out of flood plains.
posted by stbalbach at 10:28 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Video of cars being swept away by Toowoomba flash flood.

Well at least the parking meters seemed to have survived.
posted by philip-random at 10:32 PM on January 18, 2011


These are cool, but these before and after pictures from the ground were even more fascinating.
posted by Defenestrator at 10:35 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Xoebe, you're absolutely right the standard is a 1-in-100 year flooding. The flood maps that the Brisbane City Council published on their website were modelled on what they called the Q100 - the one hundred year level disaster. However, the Brisbane River has historically flooded approximately every thirty years.

The flood last week travelled almost inch-perfect along predictions made on those maps for our street. It was quite eerie to see how they matched up. The flood was only slightly below the levels from the last flood in 74, and between then and now a massive dam was constructed to help mitigate these disasters. Considering the dam was at 190% capacity when the flood hit, I hate to imagine what the flood would have been like without Wivenhoe Dam there, or if the opposition party had convinced engineers to not release as much water in October.

Also, a lot of areas that flooded are along creeks or natural subsidances that run off the river. Fairfield and Rocklea are very low-lying areas, and judging by the geography of the river as well as the aerial photos, Rocklea is a natural flood plain.

In terms of planning, the city council also provides Floodwise property reports for future construction or renovations. To give you an example of what they look like, I've added one for a random property in Rocklea. (Apologies if it's your house, and apologies if the report doesn't load properly.)
posted by chronic sublime at 10:35 PM on January 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Sometimes it can be harder to relate to flood victims in Pakistan and Bangladesh, but pictures of areas that could be our homes helped me grasp more accurately how devastating floods can be.
posted by Defenestrator at 10:37 PM on January 18, 2011


wilful, sorry if that article contains misinformation. I saw a link to it from the wonderful blog Human Transit. Out of curiosity, can you elaborate more about what it gets wrong?
posted by neal at 10:39 PM on January 18, 2011


neal, there's a good thread on it here.

They were already emptying the dam as fast as they could without causing serious floods themselves. It was just below 100% (i.e. at it's capacity for mains supply but not using any flood mitigation capacity which is that much again and more).

The real flooding came not from the Brisbane River (on which Wivenhoe Dam sits) but from the Bremer and Lockyer Rivers.
posted by GeckoDundee at 10:44 PM on January 18, 2011


Saw this in my tweetstream yesterday. Unbelievable.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:22 PM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


I wonder if there's a clever way I'm missing to get the interface to work on a touch display...
posted by sidereal at 12:34 AM on January 19, 2011


I am looking for the frequency designation for the latest flooding - 100 year flood? 500? Most places I have dealt with in the U.S., the design standard is to accommodate a 100 year flood (which is pretty much a minimum standard). Curious to know how it's managed in Australia.

The planning process in Australia is hopelessly corrupt. There are two main problems: first, State political parties receive huge donations from property developers, who make money by buying cheap land which is then fortuitously rezoned to residential use, building shitbox housing on it, then selling it to people who can't afford to live anywhere else because of idiot State government housing policies that restrict urban infill and favour sprawl. The developers don't really care if it was built in a flood zone, because they expect to sell it all off quickly (often before the units are even built) wash their hands and move on. The second is that all Australian governments are terrified of doing anything which might reduce property values for homeowners, like saying "no, don't build a house right next to a river on a floodplain, and if you do at least put it on stilts or something".

There's also a national tendency to forget natural disasters almost immediately after they happen and never, ever learn anything from them. "What? Some of the thousands of hectares of tinder-dry bush around my picturesque mountain cottage caught on fire and burned it and the entire surrounding town to the ground? Sure it happened in 1890, 1924, 1946 and 1983 but I never thought it would happen again!"

Michael Pascoe at the SMH had some words to say about this.

It doesn't help that many of the people affected by floods are not insured for flood damage.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 2:38 AM on January 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


One of the lessons I've learned from this flood is never to buy a home in a street that's got "creek" or "stream" in it's name. Looking through the hundreds of photos and 1st-person accounts, I keep seeing suburbs and streets where the names give away that they're pretty close to waterways.
posted by harriet vane at 2:41 AM on January 19, 2011


I wonder if there's a clever way I'm missing to get the interface to work on a touch display...

If you tap briefly on the pics (once the page is fully loaded) the comparison slide bar will jump to where you tapped, revealing the alternate pic. Works on iPhone at least, after a few false starts.
posted by acanthous at 4:29 AM on January 19, 2011


Yeah, I remember pretty clearly from 8th grade geography what an oxbow in a river turns into, and what happens on floodplains. It's shocking to see houses right on a "live" river like that... not along deep and permanent channels, or along rocky riversides, but straight on soil, in the middle of an oxbow, with a dock out into the water, no less!

Some tremendously bad zoning decisions, there.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:38 AM on January 19, 2011


Whole new meaning to the term being underwater in your house.
Too soon?
posted by Redhush at 5:21 AM on January 19, 2011


Mmmmm, brackish!
posted by blue_beetle at 5:21 AM on January 19, 2011


As Lou Reed would say: some developer is laughing at those pictures until he wets his pants
posted by any major dude at 5:46 AM on January 19, 2011


the Q100 - the one hundred year level disaster. However, the Brisbane River has historically flooded approximately every thirty years.

A "hundred year flood" doesn't mean a flood that happens only every hundred years. It's a flood with a one percent chance in any given year, assuming that past records are accurate for current conditions. (There's a nice explanation here from the USGS.)

In much of the western US, and my guess is that Australia is similar, a lot of floodmapping was not only very cursorily done, but was based on very short historical records. Add in a changing climate, and land use decisions that might have made some slight sense thirty years ago can look really foolish now.
posted by Forktine at 5:48 AM on January 19, 2011


Holy crap, what was the guy at about 1:10 in the video linked by BitterOldPunk thinking? The cars parked right next to his are being swept away in a torrent of water, and he's getting into his SUV and trying to drive away? He made it, but he was literally seconds away from being killed. It always amazes me how often, in disasters like this, people will risk their life to save their possessions. The reaction of the crew of the Deepwater Horizion, detailed in the article linked in this recent thread, was similar. It seems to me that it's almost always rational to bail in these scenarios, but human instinct is to try to save the situation right up until the last possible moment. Tragedy results when we miscalculate, and only come to understand the direness of the situation when it's too late to act differently. Terrifying.
posted by notswedish at 7:15 AM on January 19, 2011


Rivers gotta do what a rivers gotta do.
posted by punkfloyd at 8:54 AM on January 19, 2011


The cars parked right next to his are being swept away in a torrent of water, and he's getting into his SUV and trying to drive away?

Notice how carefully he's holding his umbrella, so he doesn't get rained on.
posted by rodgerd at 10:21 AM on January 19, 2011


As if the water itself weren't bad enough...
posted by exogenous at 10:25 AM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


The view of the floods from the ISS. (North is bottom right, roughly).
posted by GeckoDundee at 1:34 PM on January 19, 2011


In much of the western US, and my guess is that Australia is similar, a lot of floodmapping was not only very cursorily done, but was based on very short historical records. Add in a changing climate, and land use decisions that might have made some slight sense thirty years ago can look really foolish now.

The areas in Brisbane that will flood are very well known, and that information is widely available to anymore interested from the city council and other sources. Since 2006 the council has even had a program in place to buy back houses from people in flood prone areas.

The second map shown on this page which shows flooding up to 9 metres was the one I used when I was looking at buying a house a few years ago.
posted by markr at 5:42 PM on January 19, 2011


I heard on the radio this morning that they will be looking into discouraging people from re-building in the same spot their house just drowned in, but that could have been just political speech-making.
posted by defcom1 at 6:17 PM on January 19, 2011


I'm in Brisbane, and was here during the flooding, if anyone has any questions. :)
posted by Jerub at 7:17 AM on January 20, 2011


News Ltd have done something similar at the "street view" level.

You'll probably have to turn off adblock to get it to work.
posted by GeckoDundee at 1:22 AM on January 21, 2011


I live in Brisbane, and I was blogging about it last week.

Tuesday, just before the water rose.
Wednesday, as it started coming up.
Thursday, as high as the water came.
The weekend, when I went helping a coworker in Fairfield.

No, we didn't get flooded, but I went out and about a lot--I work at night--and so got to see it. Pretty devastating. The store I work at has had to borrow employees from other stores in the chain because of it, and because two of the local supermarkets shut down due to flooding.
posted by owlrigh at 7:56 AM on January 21, 2011


notswedish writes "The cars parked right next to his are being swept away in a torrent of water, and he's getting into his SUV and trying to drive away? He made it, but he was literally seconds away from being killed. It always amazes me how often, in disasters like this, people will risk their life to save their possessions. "

His truck is outfitted for deep water fording (the black pipe by the windshield is a snorkel for the engine); it's possible he's had experience that would lead him to believe it was do able. After all the water when he drove off was only just up to the rear axle; I've crossed streams with deeper flowing water without any difficulty and he has the benefit of being on a solid surface not gravel. Things don't usually get dicey until the water is up to your frame.
posted by Mitheral at 5:04 PM on January 21, 2011


He was clearly experienced, but he also clearly didn't understand how quickly the situation would turn dangerous. What you can see him doing before getting into the cabin is letting down his tyres somewhat to assist with traction while driving through the water. Not the action of someone who doesn't know what they're doing, but also not the action of someone who is 30 seconds from having cars float past.
posted by Jerub at 9:31 PM on January 21, 2011


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