I’m not so much survivor of the floods, but a bystander, so I have been trying to decide if I should post.
This might provide a different perspective. On the day of the big flood, we saw endless rain in the upper catchment. I would later learn that we had 775 mm in 24 hours here in Dunoon. Unfathomable.
I had been texting my mum who lives in Swan Bay, asking what their plan was because I knew it was going to flood. She told me my sister, brother in law and stepfather were rounding up the cattle to move them to high ground. In my head, I thought she meant the hill up the road that was used as a flood reserve for cattle. I replied by text to remember
“you first, cattle second”,thinking they could drive to high ground if needed.
It turned out that none of the farmers along the road moved their cattle. Nobody was prepared for the magnitude of the flood.
Luckily I had been shopping the day before so we were well stocked and ready to play the waiting game as we knew we would be cut off from Lismore. We watched things unfold on Facebook.
We saw friends posting that they were trapped in their homes or up on their roofs. I was looking at BOMs rainfall and river height data and realised this was going to be a bigger flood than anything we had seen before. The hardest thing was waiting as we couldn’t do anything. Around this time our phone and internet reception cut, but we still had power. I had all our devices charged up so we could still send texts and get info.
I was very worried about my family on the farm when I found out they were stuck there, as the roads had gone under. This was crazy, we had always seen floods growing up, but those roads only usually got a bit of inundation. I used to easily ride my bike along them during the floods as a kid.
That evening we started hearing of people from Lismore being taken to Modanville school and Dunoon Sports Club. People were opening their houses to survivors and we gave some clothes to some of them who my wife knew through her work. We went to bed that evening dreading what we would hear the next day. I knew the farm was most likely fully submerged but hoped for the best.
The next day we learnt that Woodburn and Coraki were completely inundated with people sheltering at Woodburn school and the hill behind it. I checked in on various friends in the area who were fortunately ok, despite losing houses and dealing with being cut off and low on supplies.
Mum posted to Facebook, and I saw the houses submerged. I couldn’t believe it, we had never had water in them even in 74 and 54. Fortunately my folks had a sailing boat so they all hopped in it as the water rose. They spent the night there, watching the cattle get swept away, powerless to help them. Later that day they were rescued by my other brother in law who took his boat from Evans Head, right up the roads and across paddocks to the farm. Being stuck in Dunoon with no way to get to them, this was a massive relief for us too.
Since then, we have been down to the farm stripping the houses and talking about the flood, trying to understand why it was so big. Interestingly my stepfather thinks they could have avoided the houses going under if the water was only from the Richmond and Wilson. It seems the straw that broke the camels back was the wall of water coming from Bungawalbin creek that breached the high banks. The sheer magnitude of the rainfall is something I still struggle to comprehend even now.
I have learnt that vicarious trauma is real. My wife lost her office in Lismore and her work at the gallery, which has certainly been difficult for her. But I’ve been lucky enough to keep working from home so I’ve had something to focus on. But the heart ache is there, because so many of our friends have lost so much.
Our community is shattered and we are all doing the best we can to deal with it. Explaining to the kids why the gallery and other favourite places are closed is the most difficult thing. And worrying about how my folks are going to get through this is also heartbreaking. But we will get there. Step by step. Big love to you all. ❤️