Backward Glance: February tales of gales and flooding here on the Sunshine Coast
  • Wednesday 22 February 2017
Weather occurrences such as the historical weather events featured in today’s Backward Glance remind us that history repeats itself. 

In February 1874, there was a report of a furious gale on the east coast of the colony, not far from Maryborough region, which caused flooding. 

Once again bad weather was recorded around February 24, 1875 with erosion to the coastal shoreline, as well as high seas and flooding on the North Coast near Brisbane. 

During the evening of February 8, 1887, a severe gale blew through this region resulting in huge seas which curtailed shipping movements along the Coast and prevented ships being able to enter or leave Brisbane at that time. 

On February 22, 1887, the weather again caused havoc. 

Major flooding was recorded in areas from Gympie to Caloundra. 

Both Caloundra and Tewantin experienced heavy rain within the district and recorded big floods. 

The Mayor of Brisbane James Hipwood contacted the Caboolture Divisional Board, then the Local Government body for this area at that time, seeking immediate information on the Near North Coast’s urgent needs, items such as food and clothing. 

On February 1, 1893, a cyclone crossed the Queensland coast near Rockhampton causing major flooding. 

Overnight the tropical cyclone then moved south with renowned long-range weather forecaster Inigo Jones recording a record 907 mm of rain in 24 hours to 9am at Crohamhurst near Peachester on February 3. 

A 15-metre high wall of water was observed roaring down the Stanley River Gorge where it flowed into the upper reaches of the Brisbane River.

During this time, the SS Dicky ran aground because of cyclonic seas at what is now called Dicky Beach. 

The Sunshine Coast was sparsely populated. However main towns such as Maryborough and Gympie recorded loss of life and major flooding.

Brisbane floods caused widespread damage with devastating consequences due to this cyclone. 

Not long after, two more cyclones caused major flooding when a cyclone crossed the coast near Bustard Head on February 11 and another cyclone tore through South East Queensland on February 17, 1893.

One of the biggest “wets” recorded in the Near North Coast region occurred in February, 1931. 

A tropical cyclone entered the Coral Sea near Cooktown and moved down towards Hervey Bay between February 1 and 8. 

Thousands of homes in South-East Queensland were inundated by floodwater which also caused severe beach erosion. 

This weather incident in our region, which was sparsely populated at the time, was reported in a February 1931 edition of the Nambour Chronicle: “Heavy falls throughout the district, rain and wind of high velocity, floods and washaways. Nine inches of rain in 24 hours”. 

The rain recordings were Bald Knob 14 inches (100 points to the inch), Yandina 1380 points, Landsborough 1185 points, Caboolture 1075 points and Palmwoods registered 1047 points. 

Caloundra resident and author Kathleen McArthur pointed out in her 1978 book, Caloundra: “One revelation that came out of the news of the Australia Day floods in 1974 was the remarks of the old timers in Caloundra, Maroochydore and Mooloolaba comparing this flooding with that of 1931. 

“From their accounts, it had been 45cm higher in 1931. 

“The wash back to the sea on the falling tide, of all this accumulated water spread so deeply over the land. 

“It was violent enough to take everything before it, smash it on the Bar (Caloundra Bar) and pile the debris on to the beaches. 

“People cannot believe that happened. It is as well, perhaps that they don’t.”

On February 20, 1954, a cyclone ripped through South-East Queensland, crossing the coast near Coolangatta with many lives lost. 

Widespread flooding occurred, power lines were cut and much structural damage occurred. 

Roads were blocked and major coastal thoroughfares remained closed for some time, while boats were left in tree tops at Beachmere. 

Many buildings sustained great damage including the Hotel Francis at Shelly Beach which lost its roof and verandas. It was reported the eye of the cyclone went over the Queensland Forestry Headquarters at Beerwah where 28 inches of rain was recorded. 

The large waves generated by the cyclone caused extensive beach damage. 

Cyclone Wendy battered the Sunshine Coast on February 7, 1972 and then Cyclone Daisy raged throughout the region on February 11 and 12 of that year, causing sand dune loss and major flooding. 

Tropical Cyclone Pam’s rain and winds caused a lot of damage to the Sunshine Coast during February 1974. 

Cyclone Pam was a large intense cyclone. Fortunately for the region she passed 500km to the east of Brisbane. 

With gale force winds behind her, Cyclone Beth sent the heavy waves crashing onto the Sunshine Coast beaches around February 22, 1976. 

The wave recording station at Double Island Point recorded a significant wave (peak) height of over 10 metres. 

During February 1980, Cyclone Ruth battered the coast along with heavy swell and big tides, causing extensive foreshore damage along the Gold and Sunshine Coast beaches.

Tropical Cyclone Simon passed Fraser Island on February 24 and caused structural damage to Hervey Bay and significant erosion to the Sunshine Coast beaches. 

Heavy swell pounded the Sunshine Coast and a wave peak was recorded at 8.9 metres. 

On February 15 one year later, Cyclone Cliff crossed over Fraser Island and made landfall near Bundaberg causing flooding to the Sunshine Coast region.

In February 1990, Cyclone Nancy crossed the coast near Byron Bay causing moderate to heavy rain, resulting in flooding in low lying areas of the Sunshine Coast and considerable traffic difficulties. 

Twenty-five years ago a tropical low produced record rains and caused disastrous flooding over the Sunshine Coast and hinterland during February 21 and 22, 1992. 

Nambour’s Quota Park was one of many areas submerged when Petrie Creek broke its banks, cutting the old Bruce Highway in the middle of Nambour. 

Matthew Street was declared a State of Emergency as houses almost disappeared beneath the flood waters. 

Flood waters invaded the undercover car park of the local supermarket as well as causing significant damage to many businesses close by. 

We’ve come a long way in improving communications during a weather event due to improvements in technology. 

Today council’s Disaster Hub provides helpful information to assist the community to be prepared for and informed during a disaster event. 

There is no doubt rising flood waters are dangerous and lives can be lost so remember when it’s flooded forget it! 

Thanks to Sunshine Coast Council’s Heritage Library Officers for the words and Picture Sunshine Coast for the images. In 2017 we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Naming of the Sunshine Coast. For more information on this milestone anniversary visit www.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au/fifty

Image captions
Hero image: Sand bagging the dunes in front of the Maroochydore Surf Life Saving Club's clubhouse, Maroochydore Beach during February, 1957.

Carousel images:
Image 1: Petrie Creek traffic bridge washed away by flood waters, Nambour, February 1928.
Image 2: Cenotaph surrounded by rising flood waters in Quota Park, Matthew Street, Nambour, 1992.
Image 3: Arthur Short with fishing nets tangled on trees by flood waters at Picnic Point, Maroochydore on February 5, 1931.
Image 4: The stranded SS Dicky, was washed ashore onto a beach which was later named Dicky Beach, after the ship had been caught in the tail of a cyclone, on February 4, 1893.
Image 5: A navigational buoy washed up on Moffat Beach, ca 1926.
Image 6: Spring's Boat Hire boats smashed against the rocks at Bulcock Beach when an unnamed cyclone hit the Sunshine Coast during February 19 - 21 1954.