The unthinkable was predicted to become reality at Rockhampton Airport soon after Christmas.
The vast inland floods that were spreading across Queensland would swell the Fitzroy River until it rose high enough to inundate not just most of the inland cattle and coal city, but overwhelm its runway and invade the terminal buildings.
But in an extremely well managed and coordinated exercise, the authorities used the long lead time before tomorrow’s predicted flood peak to evacuate much of the city and protect infrastructure where practicable, including the airport, which saw its last flights for perhaps three weeks on January 1.
David Blackwell, director, Rockhampton Airport, took all of these photographs of the flood barriers put in place to protect the terminal area in particular. He said tonight that only about one quarter of the barrier is in water leaving a very useful margin remaining should the situation not develop as expected.
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The authorities believe that the airport will be inundated until about next Tuesday, January 11, after which there will need to be inspections and any necessary repairs to the runway, taxiways and other facilities, and especially electrical equipment, all of which had been shut down in an orderly manner and protected over the weekend. It remains uncertain when flights will resume.
By last light tonight all but 150 metres of the 2800 metre runway was under water.
The photos below contrast the scene in May, when fog at Brisbane saw the diversion of a Qantas 747-400, and yesterday, when the runway had vanished under the swollen Fitzroy River flood plain.