ME: Hey bro, how are you, what’s happening?
MY BROTHER DAVE (panting): Have you spoken to Dad yet? Mum went to move the car and we can’t find her.
DAVE: There’s been a massive flash flood in Toowoomba, my phone is about to cut out, it’s a bit waterlogged. I was wading through the floodwater. Mum went to move the car and we haven’t seen her since.
ME: What? Where?
DAVE: It missed my cafe by 30 centimetres, but it ploughed through their shop. Dad is on the roof. Mum went to move the car and we can’t find her.
ME: I’m reading the news online now. It says two women are missing in Toowoomba.
DAVE: I’ll call you back.
ME: No, wait! What!? Toowoomba is on a mountain, how does it flood in Toowoomba?
DAVE: It just did. The whole place is a disaster zone. Have a look on the web.
ME: Are you OK?
DAVE: Yeah (panting). I just waded across the creek.
ME: I’m sure she’ll be fine. And they’ll have insurance.
DAVE: I’ll call you back.
I called Dad. Mum was indeed missing. It wasn’t easy to believe. Toowoomba is on a mountain. Flash floods happen in canyons to people in helmets. Not to my parents at work. He sounded worried. Imagine how a man standing on a roof looking for his wife in a river that used to be a street would sound. It was just like that.
The flood waters had started rising quickly. Mum had gone out the back of the shop to their little car parking area to move one of the cars to higher ground. The water was already up to the doors by the time she drove off. In the minutes since she’d been gone, the Toowoomba CBD had gone under. You might have seen the footage. Cars were being swept along like whitewater rafts made by grade seven woodworking students. They were taking out trees with the same ease as they were taking out wheelie bins. It was hectic.
Two creeks that run through the centre of town converged at a point next to Murray’s Art and Framing, my parents’ business — what was left of it anyway. Weeks of rain followed by a massive three-hour deluge had turned the creeks into a raging torrent, the kind Bear Grylls would try and find another way around.
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The downstairs art supply shop and picture framing part of the business is completely ruined. There’s not much left. I think the only salvageable things are a few tubes of paint, which are lying on the ground. The art gallery upstairs is OK, luckily. So is mum. She’d made it out just in time. Two minutes later and it would have been grim. Quite a few people didn’t. Mum and Dad don’t have insurance for flood damage. I don’t think many people in Toowoomba would. It doesn’t flood in Toowoomba.
It’s mum’s birthday tomorrow.
Happy birthday mum. I love you. I’ll come and help clean up the shop as soon as I can, it’s too dangerous to drive at the moment. They’re saying more than 30 people are stranded near Gatton and that they have grave fears. It’s going to be a terrifying night for some people, I’m so glad you’re OK.
*This first appeared at mattgranfield.com