A BIG YEAR: The most popular online stories of 2017
IT'S been a massive year in The Gympie Times office, and to commemorate the end of 2017 we're taking a look back at some of the biggest stories of the year.
In a way, this list has been compiled by our readers, as it is based on the stories that received the biggest response online.
IT was a spectacular start to the year for one very lucky Gympie woman, who won big in a Powerball draw:
"THE Gympie woman who scooped up the 'insane' $3 million prize in last night's Powerball draw intends to put the money to good use, both for herself and the community.
The woman in her 40s, who wished to remain anonymous, had no idea she'd become a Powerball multi-millionaire until she received a phone call from Golden Casket this morning.
"Holy crap! Wow! Oh my god, I don't know what to say!" she exclaimed.
"That's insane! Wooow! Bloody hell.
"I'm just going to giggle for the rest of the day now!"
She admitted she would have to "sit and have a good think" about what she would do with the money, but she's relieved to be able to relax her budget and be more generous."
A MAJOR investment by the State Government provided a huge boost to efforts to restore the iconic Mary Valley Rattler:
THE State Government has laid its money on the line to rebuild the Rattler rail line, with a $5 million gift announced just now.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Infrastructure and Planning Jackie Trad recognised the revival of the Mary Valley Rattler would boost jobs immediately and drive the economy as a much-loved tourism drawcard for the region.
ONE of the biggest stories of the year was the swath of destruction Tropical Cyclone Debbie cast across Queensland.
Nervous eyes were cast on the Mary River as a large tropical low bore down on Gympie:
THE Gympie region could get more than 100mm of rain this week as Cyclone Debbie makes her way south after crossing the north Queensland coast tonight.
Falls of up to 80mm over those two days alone could cause flash flooding, and Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Sam Campbell said this morning more widespread flooding was also possible, though not being planned for at this stage.
Everything hinges on the cyclone's movements.
MONTHS after the Tin Can Bay IGA was the scene of a tense police stand-off, the supermarket finally reopened:
RUTH Steinscherer said the response from residents to the reopening of the Tin Can Bay IGA was crystal clear.
"There was a big cheer went up when we opened the doors."
The Steinscherers - Ruth, Kurt and Diana - reopened the doors of the Tin Can Bay store at 7am yesterday to an excited crowd who were eager to be the first through the doors.
QUEENSLANDERS were gripped by the story of slain police officer Brett Forte, whose killer Rick Maddison was shot following a stand-off in the Lockyer Valley:
A MAN who killed a respected police officer was shot dead as he tried to flee officers this morning after a lengthy siege.
Southern Regional Assistant Commissioner Tony Wright said Rick Maddison, who shot and killed Senior Constable Brett Forte on Monday, had fired at police as he fled.
THE tight-knit school community at One Mile State School took a massive blow after one of the oldest classroom blocks was burned down in the middle of the night:
THE blaze that engulfed an iconic Gympie school could have been far worse, according to first responders.
Queensland Fire and Rescue officers bravely managed to contain the blaze to just one block as flames came within metres of destroying neighbouring classrooms.
THE occupants of a car that rolled 15m down an embankment and landed on its roof in a tree were lucky to be alive last night, emergency workers at the crash reported.
AUGUST means Muster time in Gympie, and this year we met Peter Dutton, the festival's unofficial immigration minister.
The video of Peter, and his motorised Esky (complete with Winnie Blue) was a hit with the audience, being viewed nearly 5500 times.
THE rollout of cashless welfare cards divided readers, with impassioned arguments from both sides:
FEDERAL Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt said the card would be assessed after 12 months.
He dismissed any claims of ties between the government and Indue, the company that will provide the card, saying that the process was completely above board.
AFTER a long drought, the heavens opened up in October, dumping considerable amounts of rain across the region.
There was, however, concern the inundation would lead to flash flooding, with eyes cast on the Mary River:
ROADS cut and flash flooding is now affecting a broader area of the Gympie region, and will only get worse tonight as the heavy rain continues to fall - as it is expected to do.
Motorists are urged to not travel unless they absolutely have to, and to take great care and not drive, walk or ride through floodwaters.
A HIDEOUS accident sent shock through the Gympie community. A 54-year- old man was killed when he fell into a woodchipper:
TWO friends, who were working alongside the 54-year-old, desperately tried to free him as he was pulled into the machine, but police said the man died instantly.
Gympie police acting inspector Paul Algie said the circumstances were horrific, but the incident was not being treated as suspicious.
"He was placing a tree into a tree shredder; he's become entangled within the machine and has died as a result of his injuries."
A GYMPIE father and son told how they watched a 2.5m croc for some time on Wednesday when they went fishing near the weir at Kidd Bridge.
UQ Professor Craig Franklin said saltwater crocodiles could swim hundreds of kilometres and that it would not be surprising if the beast had travelled down from the Fitzroy River near Rockhampton.
"They have been found further south than the Mary River," Professor Franklin said.