25 years on since floods
By STRUAN JONES
THE rain started on the Saturday and didn’t stop for two days.
On the Tuesday morning the paper declared the events the “worst natural disaster in living memory” and the article began:
“SES workers, volunteers, members of the Red Cross and police were working round the clock on Sunday and Monday as Bright and its surrounding districts experienced the worst floods in living history.
“From 9am on Sunday to 9am on Monday, the rain gauge at the shire offices registered 142mm, while a gauge in Wandiligong registered 149mm.
“SES workers and volunteers were kept busy from 4pm on Sunday afternoon sandbagging properties, moving furniture and helping to evacuate people from properties in danger of being flooded.”
These were the opening paragraphs on the front page of The Alpine Observer, published on Tuesday, October 5 1993 under a picture of Centenary Park underwater.
This year marks 25 years since the record-breaking floods which inundated Bright and Myrtleford as the Ovens River and its tributaries burst their banks.
Many locals can still recall the events, and The Alpine Observer recently caught up with Henry Martin, the man in charge of the Bright SES at the time.
“When the flood started I was working in Rosewhite, and I was about the last person to get back through to Bright on the Sunday night before the road got flooded,” Mr Martin recalled.
“Everything really happened after dark.”
The town had received no warning, and the water rose so quickly most people did not have time to move furniture or take up carpets.
Flash flooding engulfed the town and the surrounding areas through the night, and volunteers scrambled to sandbag property and ensure the safety of their neighbours.
Mr Martin doesn’t remember much of that night, saying “it was all a blur, you didn’t really take breath until daylight, it was full on.”
One of the stories Mr Martin remembers is of a Wandiligong resident who lived in a caravan by the creek, who woke in the middle of the night to find his dog, Sprocket, on the dining table.
Yelling at his dog to get off the table, the dog took no notice, so the resident jumped out of bed and into a foot of water, and noticed the caravan was rocking.
He grabbed his dog and climbed onto the roof of the caravan, and waited up there in the dark for about eight hours before an SES rescue crew reached him.
“That was a real act of bravery, because the creek was still running like a raging river,” Mr Martin said.
“You did it because there was a need and you react in a way to help people. I was very proud of what we did and what we achieved.”
By Monday afternoon the waters had started to recede, and the monumental clean up got underway, an effort that would ultimately take weeks to complete.
“People did amazing things, it was a town of caring people who looked after one another and their neighbours,” Mr Martin said.
PROUD TO HELP: Henry Martin remembers the 1993 flood and the bravery of volunteers