Without doubt, it’s been a scary couple of days. As the reports came out that the river had peaked, we breathed a sigh of relief. But the waters kept rising. We watched as the water broke the levee to the left of our home, and poured over the bank. Before we knew it, we had a secondary river – in front of our house, and over the course of the next few hours, the highway disappeared under a never-ending flow of water.
Bill and I hopped into the car to see if we could round up some more sandbags, but the town seemed deserted – plenty of cars on the highway – in fact, there were cars parked everywhere – just no people! Everyone had moved their vehicles to higher ground, and had then returned home to save what they could.
The main street was under water, as were many homes and businesses along the highway. It became very obvious that we were in fact, very blessed – our house had not yet gone under, and was obviously on higher ground than many of the houses in town.
As we drove home again, we ventured a little further north to see what the water was like up to near the ferry – and boy, was that flooding in! It was pouring over the sand bags, straight across the highway, and was inundating the poor house across the road. The cows were NOT happy!
After a few minutes, we headed home, parked the car on high ground, and settled ourselves in, hoping for the best – at that point, it was all we could do. By now, the weather was hot and humid, and I was not feeling well at all. So, I grabbed my computer and headed for a lie down. And what do you do when your house is about to flood, and there’s nothing you can do about it? Call on all your Gmail chat buddies, and start a group chat! We all had a great afternoon, chatting away about the flood, crocodiles, Christmas jingles and totally random stuff – thanks, guys – you really are all very entertaining! All the while, emails and Facebook posts of support kept coming in, as did the text messages on my phone. Once again, I was reminded of what true friendship is all about - I really do have a bunch of wonderful, supportive, and caring friends, and I’m so grateful for you all!
After that, we again checked the water level and the sandbags, and organised some dinner. Fortunately, we still had power, and so were able to cook without an issue. But the waters were still rising. At one point, a large wave came right over the bank and water gushed into our yard. That was the one real ‘scary moment’, when I truly thought that we were going to say ‘goodbye’ to our carpets and have water in our home, but no, God is good. The waters held back, and over the course of the next few hours, they began to recede. And finally, we really could breathe a sigh of relief!
These two photos show best how high the river rose – the first shows the back corner of our yard, with the railing that is above our stone steps, which normally leads down to the river (that's the little 'stick' poking out of the water). The second shows the tree in our back yard that is right on the top of the levee - the water came right up to, and around, it (just twelve paces from our back patio).
And this shows the empty block next door, with the waters pouring in over the levee:
So, we were stranded. The highway was cut off and deserted – quite a different sight from normal, when the trucks are usually boring along at top speed! It was nice, for a change, not to have to put up with all that traffic, but it was eerie. Somehow, I think I prefer the roar of the traffic rather than the silent, sneaking waters coming up behind the house. I kept checking the website – and it was a bit scary to read that everywhere around, the waters were going down – except at Ulmarra, our little town!
Here’s our mailbox and the end of our driveway:
Eventually, though, the waters did begin to recede, and by 9pm, although the waters were still pouring over the levee onto the empty block next door, the river did look as if it were down a little. I’d taken a few more photos before darkness set in – including this lovely one of the sun setting over the river:
At this point, lack of sleep and exhaustion caught up with me, and I crashed out, leaving my family with the hourly checks and keeping an eye on it all. I awoke at 4am to a very quiet house, with everyone sound asleep. That, I figured, must be a good sign! Grabbing a torch, I headed outside, and literally gasped at the sight – what a difference a few hours can make! The river had definitely receded, and the water line had dropped around 10cm. But the biggest difference was our ‘river’ out the front and to the side. The empty block next door had been completely covered in water, as had the highway. But by 4am, this had become more like a large puddle, rather than a secondary stream. No longer was water flowing through the channels that Bill had dug, and no longer was there a huge puddle in our back patio. The worst was over. The river was indeed dropping. Our house had been saved. Breathing one final sigh of relief, I headed back inside, had a nice cup of tea, and grabbed a few more hours sleep.
Today, we ventured a little further along the highway - it's absolutely amazing how far the water travelled - and several houses on the other side of the highway are still under water. Although the highway is now clear of water, the pools still stretch for what look like miles on the other side. Seeing all the extent of the damage once again made us realise how lucky we were; because our house is on a slight rise, all the water had gone over the levee and straight passed us - amazing!
Of course, the highway is still closed to general traffic. And that meant only one thing - we just HAD to take the opportunity to dance and sing on the road that is usually swarming with trucks, buses and cars, and grab the chance to do something that would normally be impossible:
How often would you get to do THAT on one of Australia's busiest highways?
Again, thankyou to everyone who offered their support; I cannot tell you how much it meant to know that my friends and family were thinking of us, and to know we were not alone. And thankyou, too, to those who contacted us with offers of accommodation – we may have been in NSW for only a short time, but it’s wonderful to know that we are already making friends who are quick to ensure our family is ok, and who were more than willing to offer us all a bed. No doubt there will be similar times in the years to come, but they say this was the worst flood that Ulmarra has ever experienced, so hopefully, the next flood is a little less dramatic! It’s certainly been an interesting welcome to NSW, that is for sure. Mind you, my friend in Grafton tells me I still have one more thing to experience – flood mud! Apparently, the stench is something we still have to ‘look forward’ to over the coming days. Lovely!