Australian Short Stories – Back to Imbil
By Lindsay Harris
walked to the fowl house in water above my knees and grabbed the chooks off their roost and put them on the roof thinking they would at least have a chance if the creek kept rising which it did. We found out later that the last ten feet (3 meters) of rising came on the creek in less than an hour due to the torrential rain in the catchment area. There were no lights anywhere and Beat and I decided to go to the Methodist Church Hall which was on a hill with no chance of flooding and stay there for the night or for as long as was necessary.
We didn’t worry about possessions but got my Mum, the kids and a few blankets, and headed out. Glenda, Jill, and Pam thought it was great fun, and to get to the road we drove through about eighteen inches of water. Before we left we alerted our neighbours, none of whom were yet aware they were in the middle of a big flood. The street soon became a flurry of activity. After settling the family in the hall, I returned to help other families to move.
There was no time to think of moving belongings as the creek was still rising at an alarming rate and the idea was to get everyone out without anyone drowning. I remember floating cars along the street to higher ground through four or five feet of water. It was still raining heavily and we didn’t know when the flood would ease, although common sense told us that as the water spread the rise should be slower. After all, were out of danger I went to the church to Beat and the kids at about ten o’clock.
The rain ceased, and at about two o’clock in the morning and I decided to go for a drive and see what was happening. To my amazement, I was able to drive to the house with no sign of any water. The chooks were still on the fowl house roof and I put them back on their perches without loss. The damage was evident the next morning. All the fences were washed over and covered with weed and an electric light pole in our paddock which brought power to the town had been washed out, and it was more than a week before it could be replaced.
The remarkable thing was because it had rained heavily after the flood had receded there was no silt covering the ground, nor was there any wash on the ground I had ploughed several weeks before. If it hadn’t been for the fences a casual observer would not have known there had been a flood. The full extent of the damage became evident as the creek returned to normal. The traffic bridge had disappeared, except for the piles and we also found out that the other bridge over the creek at Yabbavale had also been washed away, which completely isolated the town by road. The bridge had been constructed at the original creek crossing to the town, but a weir built on the creek about a kilometre downstream a few years previously, made the old crossing too deep for safe use.
The rail line to Gympie was unharmed and was usable within a week. All telephone communication out of the town had been destroyed, and this was a concern to the Council and State Government. The first contact from Gympie came from an Army Duck and the crew brought with them the council engineer to survey and report the damage. The kids were happy with this as many of them including Glenda and Jill got to have a ride up the main street in the Duck. The Shire Council moved quickly to repair the damaged bridge and with the help of local timber contractor Ollie Dwyer and his bulldozer began work to construct a temporary bridge. Even so, it was more than two months before the bridge was trafficable.
We settled down after the flood and I got a job in Luttons Mill in town and renewed acquaintances with my old workmates. There was also a lot of work to restore all the fences and I had little or no spare time for several weeks. We were lucky we had no cattle at the time of the flood the whole property had been covered with water. The house which was on high stumps had suffered no damage, even though there had been five or six feet of water under it, nor was there any damage to the fowl house or toilet. Unlike today’s toilets, this one was about fifty yards from the house, but at least it was serviced by the council, unlike the one at Kandanga.