Marty Warburton outside his damaged Grantham fuel station. Photo: Claudia Baxter, The Queensland Times
‘‘This could be the end,’’ says Marty Warburton.
Ferocious storms that swept across southeast Queensland on Monday afternoon hit Warburton’s Grantham fuel station hardest, nearly three years to the day a deadly flash flood devastated the Lockyer Valley town, west of Brisbane.
Grantham, but a dot on the map, lay in the path of the most destructive of the storm cells. Of all the places to be hit hardest, it was Warburton’s Marnell Fuels.
Marnell Fuels at Grantham had its roof blown off in Monday's storms. Photo: Nine News
Strong winds ripped the roof from the service station, dumping it across the road and narrowly missing powerlines in the process.
Warburton was at his farm, 12 kilometres away, when he received the call. With no way to secure the station, the small business owner had little option to bunker down in the store overnight.
Sitting in the darkness, haunting memories of the fateful night three years ago came flooding back.
Marnell Fuels was hit hard in the floods that tore through Grantham in 2011. Photo: Nine News
‘‘It hit home then; flashbacks came back,’’ he said.
‘‘It felt like I was back on the roof.’’
But the corrugated roof, which Warburton clung to as a wall of water swamped his town on the afternoon of January 10, 2011, was gone.
"It was the same piece of iron I sat on in 2011. It was the same piece of real estate," he said.
Warburton was at the petrol station when a torrent of water tore down the valley, ripping houses from their foundations and claiming 12 lives.
The now-45-year-old father clambered onto the highest part of the station’s roof, praying it would not collapse beneath him.
He credits his survival that night to his neighbour, Linda Weston.
Realising Warburton was stranded, Weston lit candles on her kitchen window sill and stood there, hour after long hour, watching over the slumped figure on the roof.
Warburton took to firing up his cigarette lighter every few minutes to signal he was alive, before eventually succumbing to exhaustion and slipping into the murky water below. He woke the next morning on a neighbour’s front verandah.
In the months that followed, Warburton emerged as a beacon of hope for the community, repairing the station he had owned for 20 years and opening for business once more.
But the last three years haven’t spared Warburton further challenges. His wife is undergoing treatment for breast cancer, after being diagnosed last May.
‘‘It’s very difficult just to make decisions at the moment ... the emotions are peaking and troughing,’’ he said.
‘‘At the moment, our main plan is to make the site safe. We’ve put a construction fence around it for the time being and hopefully over the next week or two we’ll work out what options we’ve got on the table.’’
Although insurance will likely cover the repair bill, Warburton fears the worst.
‘‘I would love to be pumping fuel tomorrow ... but I think it’s the end,’’ he said.
‘‘Because of 2011 all the assets and savings that I had accumulated, I basically had to liquidate to get everything back up and running.
‘‘It was just getting to the place where it was viable again.’’
Warburton, however, has proven his resilience in the past.
‘‘Everything happens for a reason,’’ he said.