Last year it was bushfires, this year it’s floods. NSW can’t seem to take a trick. At the moment, heavy, prolonged and unrelenting sheets of rain have produced swollen rivers, road closures, evacuations and insurance claims expected to be in the tens of millions.
A couple of days ago, we traded a saturated camper trailer in Hat Head for a warm and comfortable motel in Kempsey, fully expecting the worst would soon be over and we could continue travelling south. How little we knew about the pattern of slow moving rain troughs that join up with other slow moving rain troughs.
Today, Kempsey is on high alert: the levee bank that runs alongside the Macleay River is tipped to break and evacuations are taking place. A local told us, ‘If heavy rain falls in Armidale and works its way to Kempsey, this town will be wiped off the map.’ A sobering prediction, especially when you consider that Kempsey is the catchment area for a big river system. Maybe there’s truth in such dire pessimism.
Other people we spoke with weren’t backward in coming forward about this once in fifty years flood, firing up about the Macleay River that should have been dredged (the river while wide is very shallow), drains that should have been cleared, dam walls that should have been raised, construction of new highways that should have allowed for the natural flow of water. Long term and immediate causes aside, the upshot of this rip, tear, bust flood that’s produced 620mms (25 inches) of rain in 4 days, is that people, animals and wildlife are going to suffer longtime.
Our hopes of driving south were dashed when the A1 Highway south of Kempsey closed, possibly for several days. We considered heading north to Grafton and then west to Armidale, but a heavy rain trough heading that way from the west, combined with a widespread mice plague that has caravanners reporting chewed cables and wires, saw us head home.
On the drive, inland seas stretched far and wide – a bleak watery reminder of hard times ahead.
Fingers crossed for sunny days ahead.
Fairway Lodge Kempsey– where we were welcomed bedraggled and all- even had undercover parking to air out the camper trailer
Slim Dusty Centre Kempsey- it wasn’t open during our stay, but saving it for our return journey
Chaddies Kempsey – great cafe for a coffee and a chat. When other eateries were closed, this one held us in good stead with their fresh Tandoori chicken microwave dinners
Bookshop Cafe Nambucca Heads – we needed breakfast on the drive home and this cafe didn’t disappoint with its substantial bacon/eggs/coffee and the company of an entire collection of Charles Dickens’ works.