|Articles on this page with permission from GREG WANE, are taken from the Barwon Heads,Ocean Grove, and Wallington news .||Issn 13290371|
Published by Whistler Publishing
PO. Box 358, Ocean Grove
Editor Greg Wayne
Floods unite a town
At 11.30pm on Wednesday, 18 June 1952, workers battling to stop floodwaters breeching the Barwon Heads' levee bank were defeated when water, rising at the rate of one metre an hour, poured over the bank and engulfed the town. Water up to two metres deep covered most of Barwon Heads and dozens of snakes swam along Hitchcock Avenue.
IN JUNE 1952, Tanybryn, in the Otways catchment of the Barwon River received 560 millimetres (22 inches) of rain in just four days. The Weather Bureau issued a flood warning with floodwaters expected to hit Barwon Heads on Wednesday 18 June.
South Barwon Shire Engineer, Mr D. Gray said his council in conjunction with the Country Roads Board were frantically working to shore up a levee bank on the northern outskirts of Barwon Heads. Men and women of the town worked, by the aid of car headlights, filling 20 sandbags a minute in a vain effort. just before the levee broke, Senior Constable Bill Finchett reported: "The river is rising three feet [one metre] every hour, but we have got an even chance. But the fishermen's jetty is trembling with the surge of water and the piles are being undermined as fast as we sandbag them."
At 11pm on Wednesday floodwaters broke through the 1.8 metre high levee bank and poured into the town. A rescue party of army personnel and civilians evacuated 400 people from flooded houses. Sick and aged people were carried out on improvised stretchers and women wept as they watched water sweep into their homes. Some of the evacuees were sheltered by residents whose homes were on higher ground. But most were billeted in the 'Lobster Pot', a large hall in the caravan park.
By Friday, the floodwaters stretched from Taits Road to Bridge Road, west beyond Golf Links Road and 500 residents were homeless. Snakes became a hazard in the main street when dozens were seen swimming down Hitchcock Avenue. Constable Robert Bartrop from Barwon Heads Police had a narrow escape when a large snake wrapped itself around his thick leggings while he was wading in the flooded Hitchcock Avenue.
Traders attempted to carry on business with the butcher Mr R. Walker delivering meat on horseback while the chemist Mr W. Lake made emergency trips with medicines in a small dinghy.
To release floodwater back into the river, 50 residents and troops from Queenscliff Fort began digging a 200 metre long, channel in Ozone Road back to the river with the aid of a bulldozer, tractor, picks, shovels and bare hands. Seventeen hours after floodwaters poured into the town, exhausted men and women cheered as the last shovel of soil was removed from the channel and water began pouring back into the river.
Local resident and current president of the Barwon Heads Bowling Club, Les Jennings remembers working on the channel. I spent the night operating a dozer and Ted Winter and myself spent several nights manning the fire brigade's Chrysler pump in Ozone Road," Les said.
South Barwon Shire elections which were due to be held on the Saturday at the Public Hall in Hitchcock Avenue were postponed indefinitely in Barwon Heads until alternative arrangements could be made.
Floodwater remained in low spots in the town for nearly six weeks and the damage bill was estimated at more than £150,000. Although the fishermen's jetty "trembled" with the surge of floodwaters it escaped major damage.