It was one of those blustering cyclonic weather mornings. No one had slept much during the night as winds alternatively sucked at house moorings then dropped in a fit of rage finding the home securely riveted to the ground. Roofing strained to hang on tightly, watching anxiously as sheet iron from neighbouring house roofs whizzed through the air like gigantic ancient weapons of war. Branches broke off as the wind propelled weapons scythed through trees joining a procession of broken limbs desperately following like the tail of a comet. I peered gingerly through the window being careful not to open even a crack fearing I’d be sucked out to join the sheet iron comet. Crescent Road was understandably empty of its customary heavy morning traffic. No yelling children were on their way to school. The town had shut down in anxious anticipation of a disaster.
The Mary River hadn’t retreated to its customary level from the first cyclone of the month. At that time the whole town had turned out to watch the flooded Mary River envelop the countryside from their safe homes in the hills. Only the town centre and surrounding river farms were vulnerable to flooding so this was the resident’s annual entertainment. Now the water table was brimming and the only way of escape for the current deluge was to rush toward the sea, banking up as it encountered hilly twists and turns on its way to Maryborough and the ocean outlet.
The wind temporarily lost velocity and the comet and tail settled to the ground joining an unusual assortment of tree limbs and roofing material embedded in the ground at crazy angles.
“I’m going out to take a look,”
I turned to Mom who was pottering around the kitchen making breakfast serenely. She was one of those women of faith who believed nothing could harm the faithful. The winds were still strong enough to have to force the door open and force it closed and I swayed precariously as I slowly descended the stairs.
Tiny the cow who I’ve previously introduced to my friends in a poem stood munching in her enclosure watching the drama unfold, eyes wide and staring as she hunched forward against the wind. The trucks in our next allotment stood stoically in their place and the tractor sang a little song as the copper fuel line propelled by the strong wind beat out a rhythmic tune against the iron hood. No disasters there.
“Are you crazy, come back inside!” That was Dad at the back door fighting to keep it open. Word from the Grand Chief was to be obeyed. Even at the enlightened age of 18 I realized that and hot footed it back inside.
After breakfast I returned to the window to watch as Mom and Dad huddled around the radio. The cyclone had dumped in the surrounding hills and we were informed a deluge was on the way and was to be feared.
We lived approximately one mile from the Crescent Road Bridge. Under the bridge Deep Creek wound its way down from the hills creeping under the nearby railway bridge where it shook hands with the Mary River. Once a year after a deluge we would see Deep Creek level with the bridge and occasionally drift over for a brief time. We could watch the traffic banked up a mile away from our window as the locals took a look and compared the flood with other years. We’d never been overly anxious about Deep Creek’s intentions.
You can imagine our surprise on this morning as we saw for the first time the muddy waters of Deep Creek beginning to show up on our horizon. We hadn’t noticed it during the worst of the cyclone with rain driving horizontally against the side of our house, but now with winds down and the rain a steady drizzle it was possible to see further ahead.
The muddy water crept on slowly taking over Crescent Road, then the old mining tailings, then the field over the road where Tiny grazed during the day. By the middle of the day the flood had inched over the road and was at the foot of our property carrying with it an assortment of refugees from the animal kingdom, foremost among them being cockroaches and snakes anxious to find a place of safety. These original “boat people” arrived on floating timber, drums, uprooted trees and cans. Our only escape now was Red Hill Road up the hill.
Then with the help of neighbours a flurry of activities commenced. Firstly trucks and machinery were moved out of harms way, then things in storage under the house trucked out, but the flood moved on relentlessly, by late morning being measured as advancing four feet six inches per hour. You could see it walking up the back stairs as lounges and other soft perishables were carried out waste deep in water to be loaded on trucks and stored. But the flood won, and much remained to be claimed by triumphant Deep Creek. That would teach us for not taking it seriously in the past.
We spent that night in a person’s home who we only remotely knew. Such is the kind nature of my fellow Australians in country towns when disaster strikes. The next day we sat on Red Hill with sympathetic neighbours watching glumly as Deep Creek maintained its position stationed approximately two feet under the ceiling of our home.
By the third day Deep Creek had made its point and begun to recede. Water subsided slowly as the raging floodwaters in the Mary River prevented a faster retreat. But eventually the waters sank to floor level and I decided to swim over and take a look inside our ravaged home. The stench was terrible. A kitchen cabinet lay spread eagled on the living room floor along with other items of furniture unable to be retrieved in time. I slipped on the muddy floor and touched the wall for balance. Immediately an electric shock catapulted me across the room. In our hasty retreat from the flood we’d forgotten to turn off the electricity on the power board under the house. Shocked, I ran and plunged back into the water swimming for shore as fast as my arms could pump. Why that shock didn’t kill me while my feet were still in shallow water is still a point to ponder today.
Dad had endured enough. Within a short time he purchased another home close to the commercial centre, but this time carefully chosen so we’d be far enough up Calton Hill to banish any future fear of flood.
© copyright Ian Grice 2012, all rights reserved.
Government Flood Records 1955
Sustained and widespread flooding occurred throughout practically the whole of the State of Queensland Australia river systems during the month of March 1955. Record or near record levels were reached in the Burdekin , Fitzroy , Flinders , Thomson and Mary rivers. Dislocation of road and rail traffic was fairly general, food drops being necessary in the central interior with homes evacuated and some stock lost.
The second cyclone of the month brought serious floods to the South Coast Moreton Bay area from 27th to 30th March. Rainfalls of 250 to 500mm over the Mary Valley resulted in the worst floods experienced there that century. A peak at Gympie on 28th was the highest since 1898, and flooded the main street of Gympie to a depth of some 3 metres. Houses were washed away, crops were severely damaged. Peak heights at Tairo and Maryborough were the second highest on record. This was below the disastrous 1893 flood levels though