‘We spent a sunny Queensland summer day shovelling ice’

When Kristy Fielder arrived at work in the Toowoomba CBD, she thought it strange the garage door wouldn’t open.

It was even stranger when she saw the reason.

“Half a metre of hail in a closed garage; I couldn’t believe it,” she said.

Ms Fielder suspects the force of the storm pushed the bottom of the garage door open enough for the hail to get in, and once it built up to around knee height, the weight of the ice forced the door shut.  

“The garage was one big cold ice box, with all these perfect pieces of round hail everywhere.

“So, we spent a sunny Queensland summer day shovelling ice!”

Dry outside, winter wonderland inside;  a foot of hail inside the closed garage met Kristy Fielder when she opened the door this morning.(Supplied: Kristy Fielder)

Weekend thunderstorms brought hail and flash flooding into the Garden City, and a busy Sunday for business owners cleaning up the mess.

Residents reported up to 100 millimetres in gauges across the city.

The Bureau of Meteorology reported 43 mm, and said there was a chance more thunderstorms — with damaging winds and heavy rainfall — could develop east and south of Toowoomba on Monday. 

Toowoomba waste and water councillor Rebecca Vonhoff described the scene as “really awful”.

“There’s roofs that have become papier-mache and lots of damaged stock,” she said.

a woman shovels leaves into a very full rubbish skip

Leaf litter and debris from the hailstorm clogged up drains in the Toowoomba CBD.(ABC: Peter Gunders)

“I think this is one we’re going to have to pull together as a community.”

A street away, Jo Donaldson had been preparing to open her interior design business that she had only recently moved into.

“I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty,” she said.

“We still had many unopened boxes on the floor.

A woman stands in front of a store holding a mop

Jo Donaldson had only just moved her shop to the CBD before the freak storm.(ABC: Peter Gunders)

“I woke up in the night due to the thunder and knew there wasn’t much I could do.

“I had a call to say the entire showroom had been inundated.

“I sat on the sofa and cried for five minutes, and then got to work.”

Within minutes of posting a SOS to a community Facebook page, help was at hand.

“People I didn’t even know turned up with buckets and towels,” she said.

“That’s the kind of community we’re dealing with.

“And that’s what helps you get through times like these.”

Next door, John Rowe knows exactly what “times like these” feel like.

His family furniture business has operated since 1892 and bore the brunt of Toowoomba’s 2011 “inland tsunami”.

A man stands with hands on hips in a carpark of a furniture store

John Rowe’s family has operated its furniture store since 1892.  It has had water flow through it twice in 11 years.(ABC: Peter Gunders)

“Eleven years and four days ago”, he laughed.

“We’ve commemorated a flood with another flood, which is not quite what we wanted.”

Since the 2011 floods, Toowoomba Regional Council has completed streetscaping and flood mitigation works in Russell Street.

“All that work letting the water get away in West Creek worked,” Mr Rowe explained.

“Historically the water always came up from the drain at the crossing of Victoria and Russell St, but that didn’t happen, at least not from the creek.

damaged roadside garden beds and a fallen speed sign

Russell St had recently undergone streetscaping works.(ABC: Peter Gunders)

“What happened was all the chopped-up leaves from the hail blocked up the gutters and the water couldn’t get away, so it went everywhere else.”

Through his store. Again.

“Maybe we need to go back to the drawing board designing gutters,” he said.

Mr Rowe hopes to open his store a lot sooner compared to the weeks it took to renovate the store in 2011.

“We actually had a couple of customers come in today, and we didn’t turn them away,” he said.

And he’s remaining positive.

“We’ve seen what worse looks like; eleven-years-ago we had head-height water go through the showroom,” he said.

“Even though we’ve only had centimetres go through today, a little bit of water can go a long way, particularly when you’ve got carpet tiles and wooden furniture, but ‘worse’ looks a lot worse!”

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Source: abc.net.au

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