Reporter David Richardson shares how people desperately try to save their homes from being destroyed by the torrential rain and floods in Windsor, Sydney.
For nine days the heavens just opened and stayed open.
I have lived in Sydney for more than 30 years. We do get bouts of long wet weather but this was something extraordinary – a constant heavy rain which showed no signs of going anywhere.
As I watched the rain pour down in my area on Sydney’s northern beaches I considered changing my name to Noah – it seemed such a biblical event.
Then to visit some of the worst-hit areas closer to Sydney, an area called Windsor. It was the first small settlement outside old Sydney town to be populated by British settlers after the arrival of the first fleet.
It boasts the oldest pub in New South Wales, built in 1813 (although some would argue that). And it maintains the only true Memorial Square to settlement on the continent.
Yet all that history looked certain to be washed away in a deluge of water unprecedented in this area for 60 years.
Few people here remember the floods of 1961 – thought to be the worst of all time. That record was about to be smashed for all the wrong reasons.
Nestled on the Hawkesbury River about an hours drive northwest of Sydney, Windsor was literally smashed as the river rose 13 metres, more than 40 feet, not in days, in hours.
Paul Luckman moved with his family from Liverpool in England attracted by the sunny climate and small-town friendliness of Windsor. He bought a home on the banks of the Hawkesbury but far enough away to avoid flooding. Or so he thought.
In a matter of hours, Mr Luckman watched a surge of water rise towards his home, eating 20 yards off the backyard, before entering his house.
He was moving furniture as furiously as he could – but the water was winning the battle. Eventually, having done all he could, he left for dryer ground and prayed he’d survive the worst.
When he returned today to see the damage the water had reached his front gate. It was just 3ft from the street. He had never seen anything like this before, but was strangely sanguine about what had occurred.
It appears he’s adopted some of that Aussie battler spirit with his move to Australia. After what’s happened he’ll need it.
The facts and figures from this deluge are quite startling. The crisis literally stretches from the Queensland border in the north to Victoria in the south. It goes from the east coast inland for more than 100 miles.
It has swollen every major river and catchment in that area, with all waterways spilling water in the lands nearby. The total flood area is twice the size of the UK.
They’re sobering statistics even for someone like myself who has covered calamity and natural disasters for most of my adult life.
Tonight as I finished with my last live cross to Sky News the sun popped out, welcome but somehow a stranger after nine days being absent. It’s a sign for locals, or so they believe, that the worst is somehow behind them.
Yet even with the sun shining, humidity rising with the temperature, so oddly are the water levels – an inch in just one hour before sunset tonight. As I write this fresh warnings have been issued in areas so far thought safe.
Water pouring from swollen rivers into their tributaries flooding fresh lands, threatening more homes, sandbags piling outside even more businesses.
In a country that has suffered drought, hellish bushfires, a pandemic, then this flood on a mass scale, many people are wondering when it is all going to stop.
Perhaps that’s just the price we have to pay to live in the so-called “Lucky Country”.
I might reserve that name Noah just in case.
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