The Gap Storms – 1 Year on

This morning I attended a “healing” breakfast at my son’s school. The breakfast was to remember the storm that hit our suburb, The Gap, one year ago today. It is hard not to remember this storm.  The scars of it resonate around our suburb still.  A recent newspaper article stated a significant number of children are still receiving post-traumatic stress counseling as a result of the storm.  Many houses are still being rebuilt and repaired and the people refer to life “before” and “after” the storm.

We were not expecting what was to come, the day had been hot and clear.  When I first saw the storm I remember thinking it was just “wrong”.  Everything about it was “wrong” – it came from the wrong direction, it was the wrong shape, it was the wrong colour – it was just “wrong”.

When it hit, it hit with a ferocity I can not recall seeing before.  Having spent 21 years in the Navy, I have experienced many storms and on one or two occasions been very scared.  This storm was worse than any of those I had experienced before.

Many of you will have seen the Energex advertisements on TV – those are shots of The Gap on this day last year.  The wind howled and swirled and the rain came down in a sheet cutting off visibility to less than a foot or so. A river of water came through our house flooding half of it.  Power was cut off and branches were falling off trees everywhere.

But my family, and the general area we live in, were lucky.  Further into The Gap and in some neighbouring suburbs, the devastation was incredible.  Whole houses destroyed, roofs torn off, houses flooded, schools and churches wrecked, mudslides and trees down everywhere.

I heard many stories that week from friends and acquaintances about their experience during the storm.  One friend of ours spent the night huddled in her second story as a wall of water the height of her ceiling ran through the house below her (her house is still under repair today).  Stories of people having trees fall into the next room are everywhere and there is the story of the church group listening to a concert watching the storm rip off the roof above the pulpit as the storm hit.

The clean up took months.  A terrific community spirit kicked in, people helping each other and digging in to make sure things got back on track. The early days were made difficult by a lack of power, blocked roads and the need to boil drinking water but slowly things begun to happen.  Emergency Services personnel were everywhere and amazing.

My two boys school, Hilder Rd State School, was unusable for several weeks, every room was flooded and equipment wrecked.  The whole school was bused around to other schools in the area for weeks and repairs to the school have still been continuing throughout this year.  It has been amazing to see the resilience and acceptance of the children to having no play equipment, computers or other resources while the these things were rebuilt and replaced.  Recently, it was announced that the school was in the Top 5 in Queensland in the National NAPLAN tests – not bad for a school that was practically destroyed 12 months ago!  It is hard to figure out who to congratulate first – the Teachers, the Parents or the Kids!

Most people outside The Gap have forgotten that we were actually hit by two storms that week.  Three nights later we were hit by another torrent of water from the sky.  It again flooded many homes and caused some major mudslides in areas already coping with damage.  It was an event not needed by many residents!

Today, The Gap appears to have returned to normal.  Its normal tree dominated, green environment surrounded by Taylor Range and Mt Cootha has returned.  It is truly a beautiful part of Brisbane.

I believe, that in most circumstances, some good comes out of everything.  In the case of The Gap, I believe this traumatic experience brought a suburb closer together and I think this is a thing we should all be grateful for.  It also taught us the importance of being ready for storms, of ensuring your house is protected and, most importantly, the importance of family, friends and neighbours.

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