A PHONE screen showed his smiling two-year-old grandson and as over two metres of water roared through Sandy Petrie's Lotus Creek home, the toddler's picture was the only thing that kept him going on a night he feared could be his last.
It was the worst flood the 67-year-old had seen in his 35 years running a service station and convenience store in the tiny town of Lotus Creek, north of Marlborough.
Sandy's daughter Lysandra spoke to The Morning Bulletin yesterday as the residents of the area looked ahead to a monumental clean-up.
When Cyclone Charlie crossed the coast near Townsville in 1988, about 300mm of water inundated the Lotus Creek Service Station.
It was nothing compared to the wall of water which gushed through his business and adjoining home on Wednesday.
Lysandra said the creek had broken its banks and was rapidly rising around dusk when Sandy put his two dogs in his car and prepared to flee.
When Sandy loaded the car, he was walking through ankle-deep water.
By the time he went to switch a generator off and started to return to the car, Sandy was wading through water lapping at his waist.
The car floated away and was later recovered, wedged between trees.
Sandy had presumed his dogs perished as they were nowhere to be found when the vehicle was recovered.
Fearing for his own safety, Sandy raced into his small house adjoining the service station.
He was forced to swim to the home's stairs and spent the night on the upper floors, in darkness and not knowing if the water would carry away the house or rise even further.
He clung to one thing during those long hours; his phone had a photo of his smiling two-year-old grandson Joseph.
"The way he said it, he said it was like Joey was with him, keeping him company," Lysandra said.
"It made me cry when he told me that."
By 6am Thursday, the waters had subsided and revealed total destruction.
Neighbours who saw his car wedged between trees thought Sandy had been killed and Lysandra said they believed they would have to dig his body from the wreckage.
In fact, they reported Sandy missing to the police before he walked out of his house, shaken but alive.
Sandy is now staying with friends on a property about 20km south of Lotus Creek, but is determined to get the service station up and running again.
Lysandra has set up a GoFundMe page for her dad, saying he had given to the community over the years and was now in need of a helping hand.
Over $5000 was raised in a day.
"Lotus Creek Service Station was the only remaining rest stop along the Marlborough-Sarina Road, and now it is gone," Lysandra said.
"The loss of the Lotus Creek Service Station is absolutely devastating, not only for the local community but also for anyone who uses this road.
"Lotus Creek Service Station was the only remaining rest stop along the Marlborough-Sarina Road, and now it is gone.
"The loss of the Lotus Creek Service Station is absolutely devastating, not only for the local community but also for anyone who uses this road."
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