5 Years on: The 2011 Brisbane Floods

When our employees, suppliers and customers take a look around Cascade’s new premises at Darra, it is hard to remember that a very short 5 years ago, it was a very different story and Cascade Australia was facing an uncertain few days.

After unprecedented rain during December 2010, Cascade staff diligently turned up to work on Tuesday 11th January 2011, only to be evacuated a couple of hours later as the Brisbane River broke its banks. The Cascade site at Rocklea was prone to localised flooding, so staff had an idea that the site would be under threat from flood waters and they prepared accordingly prior to evacuation.

Large assets were placed on top of workbenches and on the mezzanine floors out in the workshop, office equipment was relocated to the second floor, again, on top of desks. What personal effects could be taken home by staff, were loaded into cars for the journey to safer ground.

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It was only after the Rocklea site was evacuated that the news came, the floods were predicted to be bigger than 1974. Very few employees had directly experienced the 1974 floods. The Cascade building had anecdotal evidence of those floods but it was hard to comprehend 6.6m of water flowing in and around the Brisbane area.

With staff safe at home with their families, there wasn’t much else to do but watch the news coverage and hope for the best. When the peak came on the 13th February, the Brisbane river gauge had recorded 4.46m, thankfully below the peak of the 1974 floods and the local Oxley river gauge recorded a max of 9.18m. Whilst the flood waters were less than predicted, it still had a devastating impact to the Cascade business. All attempts to protect assets were futile, as the water reached waist height on the second floor in the office building, a whopping 5m of water at the lowest part of the workshop.

Unable to access the site, many of our staff turned their attention to the needs of family, friends, neighbours and even complete strangers. This show of compassion and solidarity earned many in the Brisbane area the nickname of “The Mud Army”. 55,000 registered volunteers came together with locals and businesses to help those in need and the show of compassion was overwhelming.

Finally, on Saturday the 15th January, staff were able to access the site to assess the damage. Staff who had been assisting in other clean up activities were treated to the same conditions at the Cascade site- a thick layer of silt and sludge, items carried in from local businesses and damaged assets and stock within the premises. The power that was held in the flood waters came as a surprise to all when items were crushed, pushed out of the way and broken beyond repair.

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Thankfully, none of our employees suffered direct damage to their houses and the spirit of the “Mud army” continued as the employees, family members, suppliers and volunteers rallied to help Cascade in the big clean up effort.

After many weeks washing away the silt, cleaning up the rubbish, ordering new stock and assets, Cascade was able to start manufacturing again. It took a mammoth effort from many, many people; staff, family members, suppliers, local business, volunteers and Cascade Corporation. Needless to say, it was an experience none of us wish to do again. Thankfully in 2014, Cascade Australia announced it would be relocating to Darra, 8km South West of the Rocklea site and most importantly, out of the flood plains!

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The 2011 floods were devastating for the Brisbane, Grantham and Toowoomba areas with approx. 200,000 people affected by the floods state-wide and very sadly, the loss of 35 lives. However, the compassion, solidarity and the fortitude shown by those affect made a silver lining in an otherwise dark mark in Queensland’s history.

Today, Cascade choose to celebrate the success of recovery, the camaraderie of the community and honour those who aren’t with us anymore.