Valley swamped, Coffs smashed

THE Clarence Valley was battered by heavy storms yesterday, but what happened in the local area was nothing like what occurred in Coffs Harbour.

After two days of moderate falls the Coffs Harbour district was inundated with what many locals claim was 'the heaviest rain they have ever seen'.

The result was flash flooding throughout the Coffs CBD, cars washed away and people stranded in motor vehicles everywhere in the district.

As fast as the Coffs Harbour police were called to rescue someone in the north of the city they were sent back in the opposite direction.

The police radio crackled with constant calls for assistance.

“Two men trapped in a tree in Boambee Creek region, one 50 year old and one 58 ... Sullivan's Road has collapsed and a car has driven into the ditch ... a Holden ute is stranded in water on the Pacific Highway three kilometres south of Urunga the occupants are standing on the roof ... we have an elderly couple at Sawtell who refuse to leave their home and the water is rising fast.”

The messages were all urgent.

Strike teams from the NSW Fire Brigade were quickly dispatched to Coffs Harbour to assist. The local surf club sent their rubber duckie teams into action and one of the first rescues they performed was plucking two men out of a tree in Boronia Street.

Emergency services in the region were being taxed to their limit as the rain continued to fall and the water continued to rise.

Coffs Harbour jewellery designer, Brooke George, who was evacuated from her new shop in the Coffs Harbour Mall, said she had never seen anything like it.

“I was here in 1996 when the last big flood came through, but this is much bigger than that,” she said.

“I am walking through the mall at the moment and the water is gushing around my knees, I've got my children with me and we are just rushing to get across to the Coffs Harbour Ex-Services club which is now an evacuation centre,” she said.

While the situation wasn't as urgent in the Clarence Valley, emergency services were still taxed throughout yesterday.

RTA traffic controllers were called to the Pacific Highway near the South Grafton industrial area as the corner of it and Tyson Road went underwater.

Just across the road, a farmer was busy moving dozens of horses and about 10 cows to higher ground from the paddocks they were trapped in.

In the middle of all this, a large kangaroo swam right past the animals as it tried to escape the neck-deep water.

Access to the South Grafton industrial estate was further restricted with Tyson Street cut-off between Induna Street - which houses the SES regional headquarters - and Mackay Street.

Heading back into South Grafton, the Pacific Highway near the Notaras timber mill was almost completely underwater.

In Glenugie, SES members spent part of yesterday ferrying people across Dinjerra Road, which was underwater.

In the north of the Clarence Valley, Yamba residents woke yesterday to find a new lake near the centre of town after more than 120mm of rain fell overnight.

The large pool of water stretched from the Yamba Golf Course, across the bottom of the rugby ground to Coldstream Road, blocking off access to the squash courts and Aston Motel for most of the morning.

Brendan Nash, from the motel, said there had been drainage issues in the area since recent earth works was carried out on the rugby fields.

“The big drainage system needs cleaning out,” he said.

“One of our cleaners has been working here for nine years and this is only the second time she hasn't been able to get to work because of flooding.”

Mr Nash said they had taken photos of the flood they were calling Lake Aston, and would be sending the evidence to council.

A council spokesperson said they had no immediate answers to the overnight flooding, but confirmed council would be looking into the problem immediately.

One of council's responses included the possibility of sending a staff member out in a canoe to inspect the drainage system in the area.

Large pools of surface water could also be seen along Carrs Drive in West Yamba.

Scott Gale, from the SES in Grafton, said Nymboida SES was monitoring the situation there and rendering assistance as needed because of a moderate flood warning for the Orara River.

A spokesman for the SES in the Lower Clarence said there were no major incidents there but SES staff had been busy preparing for any emergencies.

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