A HEAVILY pregnant woman and her husband were evacuated from their flood-threatened Wattle Bank home on Friday.
Rainfall of more than 60mm in 24 hours resulted in upended lives across the region, shutting roads, disrupting workers’ plans and interfering with school bus routes.
The heavy rain was the second natural event to cause concern in a matter of days, after an earthquake rattled South Gippsland on Tuesday night.
The Wattle Bank couple called the State Emergency Service as floodwaters two metres deep isolated their home, but volunteers were unable to access the house.
The male occupant said water first began to approach their back door on Thursday night but he was not alarmed.
“At 6am (on Friday), Foster Creek crept into our property and inundated the back of the house,” he said.
“We waited it out, put sandbags at the door and called SES who came out and said it was best if we leave and we totally agreed.”
Wonthaggi SES controller Joe Borg said they immediately realised it was too dangerous for the occupants to stay, with water flowing rapidly around the house.
“The water level was getting higher and it was lapping at the door and just starting to get inside. The woman was 36 weeks pregnant. It was in their best interest to get out,” he said.
“We could only keep in touch with the couple via mobile phones. It was over the phone that we convinced them to leave.”
The SES crew initially organised a rescue boat to vacate the couple, however a neighbour arrived with his tractor and was able to drive in and carry them out to safety.
“We were able to get them both to the lady’s parents’ home in Inverloch,” Mr Borg said.
“We really wish to thank the farmer for coming to their aid. He was a godsend for sure.”
Despite only being four weeks away from her due date, the woman’s husband said he wasn’t too concerned about the incident.
Although no other homes were damaged by floodwaters, the same could not be said for roads, with dozens of closures occurring during one of South Gippsland’s wettest days for the year.
During the 24-hour period between 9am Thursday and Friday, Fish Creek recorded its second highest reading for the year of 54mm while Leongatha recorded its highest at 62mm.
Wonthaggi was not far behind, with 44.6mm of rainfall.
The continuous rain caused havoc for motorists and sent South Gippsland and Bass Coast shire councils and VicRoads into overdrive, closing roads and warning motorists of the conditions.
A closure on the Bass Highway near Kirrak Road in Wonthaggi saw traffic backed up for over a kilometre on Friday afternoon, with only one lane open.
Weekend visitors from Melbourne wanting to reach Phillip Island or Wilsons Promontory also felt the frustration, taking up to five hours to detour up the Princes Highway to Drouin and back through Lang Lang, or to Warragul and back through Korumburra or Leongatha.
VicRoads regional director Sebastian Motta said VicRoads had to close some major roads due to inundation, and put temporary traffic conditions in place on a number of other roads.
“These temporary conditions included speed reductions and partial lane closures where water had flowed onto the road,” he said.
“Now that floodwaters have receded in many locations and inspections of road conditions are being carried out, VicRoads has been able to start re-opening roads and remove temporary traffic conditions wherever it is safe to do so.
“Some sections of road may have suffered deterioration as a result of heavy rainfall and VicRoads urges drivers to take care and drive to the conditions at all times.”
Six roads in South Gippsland remained closed yesterday (Monday), while landslips have limited the Loch-Poowong Road at Loch, just under a kilometre from the South Gippsland Highway, and Leongatha-Yarragon Road at Hallston between Grand Ridge Road and Allambee Estate Road to only one lane.
Five roads also remain closed in the Bass Coast Shire while water over roads enforced speed restrictions at five others.
Schools buses were also sent into disarray, with some routes cancelled at around 3.15pm on Friday afternoon.
Students from Leongatha and St Laurence’s Primary School were taken by bus to the Leongatha Secondary College before realising their connecting routes had been cancelled.
Students had to be taken back to their schools by teachers, where parents were contacted and asked to collect their children.
V/Line services were also disrupted, with some routes cancelled and others drastically delayed.
“The Melbourne to Cowes service ran an altered route and was at least 120 minutes late – not all stops were serviced,” V/Line spokesperson James Kelly said.
“Koo Wee Rup and Inverloch services did not operate and Leongatha and Yarram services ran as a train from Melbourne to Morwell, then as a bus from Morwell to Leongatha.”
Despite the wet conditions, both Leongatha and Wonthaggi SES reported fairly quiet weekends, with only 10 and 15 call-outs respectively on Friday, with no flood related call-outs over the weekend.
Leongatha SES controller Tony Lindhard said fortunately the majority of the floodwaters over roads had receded by Saturday morning.
Jeannie Hicks from South Gippsland Shire Council commended all workers and volunteers for their dedication during the floods.
“A big pat on the back to all the council crews and the SES; it’s a reminder how indebted we are to these people,” she said.
“At a moment’s notice they give up their weekends to put the safety of the community before everything else.”
Police were also pleased with responsible driver behaviour around floodwaters, with only one accident reported due to wet roads.
Around 10.30pm on Sunday night a 21-year-old man from Devon North lost control of his car around a bend and collided with roadside shrubbery along the Foster-Waratah Road near Fish Creek.
The man was taken to hospital with minor injuries to his chest and neck but was not admitted.
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