Lessons from 2011 helped us prepare for the recent storm but the clean-up is still massive project to get underway
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In the last fortnight we have all received a timely reminder of why it’s so important to be prepared for storms and flooding. As Lord Mayor of Brisbane it has been heartbreaking for me watching the residents of this city having to relive the possibility that their homes may be flooded again. It didn’t matter that we all knew it was unlikely to be anywhere near as big and damaging as January 2011, it’s still a raw wound for many and it was always going to be tough for people to stop those devastating images creeping back into their minds. Then after the storm is the massive clean-up that needs to get underway which is the second phase of the storm.
However, we’re also a strong bunch of people up here and I cannot thank everybody enough for the way in which you followed our requests to stay calm and put preparations in place. The universe works in strange ways and it’s almost uncanny how, in my last bmag column, I wrote extensively about the lessons learnt from the January 2011 flood and ensuring we all remained vigilant on its two-year anniversary.
I admit I certainly didn’t expect to be putting it into action just a few days later. However, thanks to the many improvements we’ve made since then, we were prepared early and made the critical decision to release maps and lists of streets for areas that flood-modelling and weather forecasts predicted would be affected.
Along with the traditional media, who did a fantastic job in helping us ensure residents were best prepared, social media played a big part, with more than 16 million views of council’s Twitter and Facebook pages.
We also immediately put sandbag operations into overdrive in the days leading up to the storm and flooding to ensure those who needed to prepare could and we handed out close to 160,000 of them to residents and businesses around the city.
Another big thank you is in order, this time for the council staff who worked tirelessly throughout the days and nights to ensure residents had access to sandbags, as well as those members of the community who generously volunteered their public holiday to help us increase production as required.
Interestingly, despite the concern associated with the flood risk, it was the preceding wild winds and heavy rains which provided the biggest hit to Brisbane. Again, we worked hard to give residents as much time as possible to prepare as best they could, and it was pleasing that the majority of people heeded our warnings to stay indoors, secure loose furniture and keep off slippery roads.
However, like any major storm, there has been a major clean-up effort required, with council officers responding to more than 1850 trees down, our contact centre taking more than 20,000 calls, and the SES called to more than 1200 jobs. We also understand residents are doing their own clean-ups of leaf litter and smaller broken branches and trees strewn across their backyards, footpaths and gutters, which is why I’ve put on a one-off green waste kerbside collection for the whole city. It started on Monday and hopefully everybody’s already put any green waste they have out on the footpath, but if they haven’t been around yet and you still haven’t put your stuff out, now’s your chance. We simply ask residents to be patient as it will probably take a few weeks to make our way around every street in the city.
Also, if you have left-over sandbags, there is no need to return them, but please dispose of them thoughtfully by spreading the sand across your lawn or filling up the kids’ sandpit – don’t dump them in waterways.
Finally, if you haven’t already, please sign up to council’s Early Warning Alert system to receive storm warnings by text-message, email or on your home phone. If there’s anything the last week or so has reinforced, it’s that it’s better to be safe than sorry.