By Paul Dobbyn
CABOOLTURE’S Fr Wrex Woolnough said his parishioners have been “stunned and saddened” by the loss of five lives in the flash floods caused by the region’s recent “off the scale” downpour.
The killer floods on May 1 also disrupted Church events including Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge’s pastoral visit to local schools and Confirmation, which was to have beeen celebrated at St Peter’s Church, Caboolture that night.
The Caboolture area was the hardest hit as slow-moving, highly concentrated storm cells dumped more than 300mm of rain in a few hours.
“Parishioners were shocked by the reality and impact of the flooding, particularly the lives lost,” Fr Woolnough said.
“There was a sense of ‘this can’t really have happened’.
“Then people started to gradually come to terms with how extreme the event had been and how much rain had fallen.”
A man in his 70s, a woman in her 30s and an eight-year-old boy were pronounced dead at the scene on Friday after their car was swept away in floodwaters at Dances Road, Caboolture. A 49-year-old man died later in a car in a separate incident nearby.
On Saturday morning, police confirmed a 75-year-old man died at Burpengary overnight after his car was swept away by floodwaters near Burpengary Creek at about 8.30pm.
Fr Woolnough, who has been Caboolture’s parish priest for 14 years, said he’d heard “on the grapevine that 86mm of rain had fallen in just 18 minutes and in three hours the total was around 331mm”.
“Nothing can handle that sort of downpour,” he said.
“Places were flooded I’d never seen before like the Burpengary weighbridge … the highway was closed in both directions as well.
“Water was up to the escalators at Morayfield Shopping Centre and a parent of students at one of our local schools was trapped in the centre.
“Fortunately there was no damage to Church property although there were some anxious moments when the wind picked up and we feared trees in the sodden ground could be brought down.”
Archbishop Coleridge, on a pastoral visit to St Peter’s and St Columban’s schools, was caught in the middle of the weather.
“There was a terrific amount of noise from the rain, wind and claps of thunder when the assembly at St Peter’s School was held,” Fr Woolnough said.
“The kids, right through to the Preppies wearing mitres in honour of the Archbishop’s visit, were very good.”
Confirmation, due to be celebrated at Caboolture’s St Peter’s Church on the Friday night, also had to be cancelled.
“This meant an extremely large turnout for Confirmation next day at Bribie Island,” Fr Woolnough said.