From a sprinkle to a state of panic

Coffs Coast Advocate

THE talk around northern New South Wales started about 9am on Tuesday.

Talk that we could be in for a flood.

When Lavenders Bridge at Bellingen was closed at 10am, long-time locals accustomed to seeing more than a sprinkle of rain were saying, “It'll be fine, don't panic, the bridge in Bello always goes under in a bit of wet, we'll be right.”

But after seeing two nights and a day of heavy rain on the Coffs Coast, residents were getting nervous when there were no signs of sunshine by mid morning on Tuesday.

Jokes of 'we won't have to mow the lawn this week' or 'I hope my knickers don't fly off the line' began to give way to more serious thoughts as the rain continued to fall.

With memories of the extensive damage caused in the floods of 1996, many residents were understandably worried when water began pooling in suburban streets where drainage normally copes with heavy rainfall.

Fast fingers were texting messages to family members and friends, 'Where R U?' and it wasn't long before phone users were hearing the familiar but frustrating Telstra message, 'sorry, we are experiencing heavy traffic in this area, your call could not be connected, please try again later.'

Faces were pressed against windows as the rain pelted down with no relief.

View photos. Click to enlarge.

Retail and office workers hurried to move their cars after a resident from Korff Street alerted them the street was about to flood, and on a usually busy shopping day, the central business district became eerily deserted as locals realised the possible enormity of the situation and rushed to check on their families and property.

Sirens echoed in the streets as the water began to rise and authorities began responding to the growing demand.

As word of mouth travelled that street after street was being cut by water, concerned parents tried to find their way to schools.

Circling the neighbourhood, cars were turning into side streets, back tracking on to the Pacific Highway, and then back again through suburban streets, as anxious parents tried to find a way that wasn't blocked by water.

While many parents were beside themselves with worry, their children were having a ball jumping in the biggest puddles they had ever seen and revelling in the news of 'no school tomorrow'.

As lawns began to resemble swimming pools, many residents and retailers began moving what they could to higher ground and sandbagging with whatever they could get their hands on.

All the while the rain kept pouring down.

But as always, there was plenty of community spirit, and even some laughter, in the face of the floods.

Neighbours helped neighbours. Beds, food, warm clothing and comfort were generously offered to those without.

And a cheeky 10-year-old boy who 'surfed' his way down West High Street on a wheelie bin may have been in trouble when he finally got home, but he'll sure have a good story to tell his grandchildren one day.

Leave a comment below and tell us about your experience with the recent flooding or send photos to

Timeline of flood events:

MONDAY March 30 - 9.31am

  • Flood Watch issued for north coastal areas
  • Predictions of minor to moderate flooding on Orara, Bellinger and Nambucca Rivers
  • Rainfall prediction of 50 to 100mm

TUESDAY March 31 - 3.30am

  • Minor flood warning issued Bellinger River
  • Rainfall 100mm in past 24 hours
  • Bellinger predicted to reach 3.7m flood level at 6am

TUESDAY March 31 - 7.02am

  • Rainfall 118mm in past 27 hours to 3am

TUESDAY March 31 - 10.13am

  • 500 people isolated upstream Darkwood
  • Rainfall 225mm at Dorrigo in 24 hours to 9am. Rainfall 196mm atBellingen in 24 hours to 9am. Rainfall 104mm at Thora in 24 hours to 9am
  • Winds 65 to 90km/h
  • Surf 5m

TUESDAY March 31 - 10.30am

  • Bellinger River predicted to reach 6.5m SES had 30 requests for assistance, leaking roofs and sandbagging

TUESDAY March 31 - 5pm

  • 1000 people isolated
  • Sunny Corner Bridge at Kalang closed
  • Repton Caravan Park evacuated
  • Bellinger River expected 6.2m at Thora 9pm, 8m at Bellingen at 9pm
  • Orara River expected 8m by midnight. Flooding forecast for Bowraville. Flash flooding Coffs Harbour
  • Evacuation of 10 properties
  • SES had 174 requests for assistance

TUESDAY March 31 - 6.15pm

  • Coffs Creek peaks 5.14m

TUESDAY March 31 - 6.57pm

  • Urgent warning issued Coffs Harbour as flash flooding escalates

TUESDAY March 31 - 8pm

  • Bellinger River peaks 8.6m

TUESDAY March 31 - 10.30pm

  • Nambucca River peaks 10.4m at Bowraville

TUESDAY March 31 - 11.34pm

  • Emergency operations centre established Pacific Bay Resort
  • Evacuation centre at CEX houses 300 schoolchildren
  • 120 people self-evacuate to Bonville Golf Club
  • More than 400 people register at evac centres
  • SES had 550 calls for assistance
  • 100 properties flooded
  • Rainfall 370mm since 9am
  • 30 people rescued from homes

WEDNESDAY April 1 - 3.30am

  • SES had 750 requests for assistance. 1700 people isolated at Darkwood, Thora, Kalang Valley
  • 55 people evacuated Newry Island
  • Evacuation centre established Urunga Golf Club

WEDNESDAY April 1 - 6am

  • Nambucca River peaks 2.3m at Macksville
  • Evacuation centre established Salvation Army Chapel at Macksville

WEDNESDAY April 1 - 1.14pm

  • SES had 930 requests for assistance. 65 flood rescues in Coffs Harbour. 35 flood rescues in Bellingen and Urunga

WEDNESDAY April 1 - 3.05pm

  • Declared natural disaster
  • Rainfall 440mm in Coffs Harbour
  • Rainfall 450mm at Red Hill
  • Rainfall 700mm at Nambucca in past 48 hours
  • 300 SES volunteers on the ground

THURSDAY April 2 - 3.30am

  • SES had 1070 requests for assistance
  • 800 requests for SES assistance in Coffs Harbour and Bellingen
  • 100 flood rescues
  • 900 SES volunteers on the ground
  • Coffs Creek steady
  • 2600 residents isolated Kalang Valley, Thora and Darkwood

950 residents isolated Bowraville

  • 71 rural properties near Coutts Crossing isolated

THURSDAY April 2 - 7am

  • Flood warnings still current for Orara, Bellinger and Nambucca rivers

Read more ...

Coffs Coast weather forecast

View Reegan Walker's gallery of flooding around Coffs.

Wet under foot

Nine families isolated by floods

$30m in flood damage is 'conservative'

Flooding disrupts hospital

Nambucca Valley roads crumble

Dorrigo to be cut off until Monday

Qld visitors swept into Middle Creek

Flood victims should contact insurers

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