We were there: When the Australia Day floods hit

WHEN the heavens opened on Australia Day 2013, sparking the start of the worst floods for decades, the Fraser Coast Chronicle was there.

Like most of the country, the Chronicle's editorial team was celebrating our national holiday with a barbecue.

But as the weather worsened and the first reports of flash flooding came in, we put down the tongs and left the sausage sizzle uneaten to go out and get the story. The Chronicle's chief photographer Alistair Brightman posted the first few photos of submerged roads at Torbanlea, while reporters including current staff Carlie Walker and Hayden Johnson broke news on a tornado that hit Burrum Heads, plus the Mary River's rapid rise.

As the weekend continued, so did the rain - and the waters kept on rising. Our staff didn't stop either, with photographer Robyne Cuerel even taking to a boat to get to isolated Granville and Torbanlea.

The Mary broke her banks and the water hit levels unseen since the 1970s, submerging most of Maryborough's CBD and even lapping at the Chronicle building on Bazaar St.

A family is boated across the swollen creek at Schultz Bridge, Tinana, where many houses were flooded and families isolated.
A family is boated across the swollen creek at Schultz Bridge, Tinana, where many houses were flooded and families isolated.

The Chronicle team put on gumboots and worked from a sandbagged office, wading through knee-deep water to get in or out of the building, and struggling with limited power from a generator.

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Editor Clementine Norton, who was then print editor, worked with the team at Maryborough - making sure readers were kept informed with the latest on river levels, closures, forecasts, and where to find help.

"We heard and told heartbreaking stories during the floods, and met some amazing resilient people who went above and beyond to help their communities," Ms Norton said.

"Our newspaper and website was the most up-to-date, comprehensive source of information for people in our community - and we later followed the story of recovery and campaigned on flood mitigation efforts, detailing the effects of the floods long after the water receded."

Jillann Laycock is comforted by her sister Debbie Behrendorff. Jillann has endured many floods but this was the highest.
Jillann Laycock is comforted by her sister Debbie Behrendorff. Jillann has endured many floods but this was the highest.

The Chronicle has been here since 1860, through all the biggest breaking news and community events on the Fraser Coast.

Follow our We Were There series online and in print during the next two weeks, and look back at the stories that have shaped our region.

We Were There is a series that revisits the Chronicle's in-depth coverage of the major events that have shaped the Fraser Coast over the past 20 years. 



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