Former Queensland Times reporter Melanie Maeseele reported from Grantham for several days after becoming stranded there during the 2011 floods.
Former Queensland Times reporter Melanie Maeseele reported from Grantham for several days after becoming stranded there during the 2011 floods.

‘Come home now or you won’t make it’: Day of flood horror

IT IS hard to believe it's been a decade since the devastating 2011 floods that destroyed so many lives and livelihoods in the Lockyer Valley.

Some memories from that fateful day - 10 January - will stay with me forever, others you try to forget for self-preservation.

Those January floods in Queensland amounted to the worst natural disaster in the state's history; dozens of people died and billions of dollars in damage was caused.

The emotional toll on so many though was far, far worse.

A house that was washed away in the floods at Grantham in 2011. Photo Bev Lacey / The Chronicle
A house that was washed away in the floods at Grantham in 2011. Photo Bev Lacey / The Chronicle

I was a young and enthusiastic journalist who called the Lockyer Valley home.

That morning I was working from the Queensland Times office in Ipswich when my partner, a fifth-generation Lockyer Valley farmer, rang to say "come home now or you won't make it back - the flood water is rising."

I left the office and headed towards home.

The only difference was my thirst for news had me following the downpour in search of a story.

I found myself in Grantham - what was to be the epicentre of the worst floods to hit the town in its history.

I thank my guardian angels I left the township just hours before the wall of water tore through the town.

The sheer destruction that unfolded just hours later was unimaginable.

A car up-ended following flooding at Grantham in 2011. Photo Bev Lacey / The Chronicle
A car up-ended following flooding at Grantham in 2011. Photo Bev Lacey / The Chronicle

Twelve people died in the Lockyer Valley floods.

I attended five funerals for eight residents that died in these horrific circumstances; it was gut-wrenching.

I witnessed the family of Jessica Keep, a 24-month old baby that had been torn from the arms of her pregnant mum Stacy as flood waters tore through their Grantham home, say goodbye to their precious daughter.

Stacy's mum, Dawn Radke, and mother-in-law, Pauline Magner, also died in the horrific flash flood.

There was Danny McGuire who lost his wife, eldest son and daughter when the wall of water swept through Grantham as they were trying to escape the torrent of water in a vehicle.

He survived, as did one of his sons. It was just horrific, unimaginable.

The hours and days that followed now seem like a blur but the tales of horror and hope continued for several weeks.

Grantham survivors at the Helidon Evacuation Centre. The Marshall family. Allan and Julie with kids Rhys, 13, Ryan, 15, Rory, 20, and Hayley, 13 months. Pic: Rob Maccoll
Grantham survivors at the Helidon Evacuation Centre. The Marshall family. Allan and Julie with kids Rhys, 13, Ryan, 15, Rory, 20, and Hayley, 13 months. Pic: Rob Maccoll

There were so many horrific scenes that I remember so vividly: pigs scouring debris near the

Grantham bridge while police divers searched the flood waters for missing people, the army filing like ants through farms searching for those missing.

It was a surreal time for many.

Like multiple scenes from a horror movie only it was happening in my close-knit country community.

Likewise, there were so many stories of bravery and resilience.

I spent time at the evacuation centre at the Gatton Shire Hall with so many families displaced but the community rallied together - donations of food, clothing and water poured in and many hands were on deck to provide comfort to those in need.

Photograph from witnesses in the Lockyer Valley captured on their camera presented at the Flood Inquiry on Monday July 20th, 2015. Pictures: Jack Tran / The Courier Mail
Photograph from witnesses in the Lockyer Valley captured on their camera presented at the Flood Inquiry on Monday July 20th, 2015. Pictures: Jack Tran / The Courier Mail

There's not a day that I don't drive through Grantham and think of that fateful day and the impact it had and continues to have on so many people.

It changed our lives forever.

The Lockyer Valley community is a more resilient one because of the floods and I feel privileged to be able to call myself a resident of this close-knit and caring community.