From the Archives, 1973: Swirling floodwaters cut off Geelong

First published in The Age on February 7, 1973

Floodwaters cut off Geelong

Industrial areas 16 ft. underwater as rivers rise

Town hit by 8 ft. wall of water

INVERLEIGH — Fifty families were evacuated here after a wall of water eight feet high gushed through the township, 15 miles west of Geelong.

Inverleigh after an 8 ft. wall of water gushed through the town.Credit:The Age Archives

At least another 30 homes in the nearby townships of Batesford, Teesdale and Shelford were evacuated when the swirling floodwaters — believed to be the worst on record — swept through at about midday yesterday.

Ninety-eight children, mostly carried on pick-a-book back by their parents and friends, were lifted on to trucks and evacuated from the local school on the Hamilton Highway.

Floodwaters up to eight feet deep cut the highway for about five miles between Geelong and the western side of the town.

All of Inverleigh’s shops were flooded by water three feet deep, damaging stock and supplies.

On the outskirts of the town, thousands of sheep and cattle were feared to have been drowned, but full stock losses will not be known until later today.

About 50 families, who had earlier been evacuated from their homes, were last night billeted in nearby homes on higher ground.

A truck battles its way along a flooded road near Geelong.

Mr Bruce Wilson, who has lived here for 25 years, said:

“The water came down in an eight-foot-high wall. It was a miracle no one drowned.

“For a while it was everyone for themselves.

“The job was to get everyone out the best way possible,” he said.

More than six inches of rain were recorded in the town in the 24 hours to midday yesterday.

Heavy rain, which had fallen in Ballarat earlier yesterday, threatened more flooding for this area today.

The Leigh River, known to locals as a “dry drain”, reached a peak of 15 feet at the height of the flood. Two days ago the river was dry.

Hundreds of acres of vegetable crops were ruined.

Early yesterday afternoon a crop of 2000 cabbages was washed along the Hamilton Highway by flood waters.

Mr David McMillan, who runs a garage in the town, said: “I’ve lost umpteen 45-gallon drums of petrol and oil. The floodwaters have picked them up and washed them away,” he said.

At Teesdale, the swirling floodwaters surged through the township, causing widespread damage and flooding homes. Three new tennis courts were wrecked as the floodwaters peeled back the new malthoid topping on the courts.

First published in The Age on February 7, 1973

Families move to safety, highways close

Geelong industrial areas were under 16 feet of water early today after yesterday’s torrential drought-breaking rain.

Five major highways have been closed indefinitely.

They are the Princes between Lara and Geelong, the Hamilton between Geelong and Cressy, the Calder at Bridgewater, the Loddon Valley at Serpentine, and the Glenelg between Skipton and Lake Bolac at Streatham.

At Inverleigh, 15 miles, west of Geelong, 80 homes in and around the area were evacuated as an 8 ft. wall of water swept through the town.

And at Lara, between Melbourne and Geelong, about 10 families were evacuated from washed-out homes.

The industrial areas of South Geelong were evacuated as floodwaters from the Moorabool and Barwon Rivers rose.

The area was under 16 ft. of water early this morning.

An RACV spokesman said the Princes Highway between Lara and Geelong would remain closed for several days.

The Melbourne-Geelong rail line was closed all day but reopened for peak services late in the afternoon.

Police last night cancelled bus services for school children travelling to Geelong from outlying county areas.

They said that roads leading to Geelong were “too dangerous” for bus services.

A spokesman at Geelong police station said the flood waters had crept into low-lying areas of the outer suburb of Belmont.

But in Melbourne the drought is over and the sunny weather back.

The director of the Weather Bureau (Dr. W. J. Gibbs) said East Gippsland was the only drought area left in Victoria.

The freak cyclone Adeline brought three to live inches of rain to the whole State —except East Gippsland — early yesterday morning.

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