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: The Clarence Way was closed between March 23 and 25 as floodwater rose at Chaselings Gully between Grafton and Copmanhurst. Image: Emma Pritchard.

2021 flood aftermath washes over Clarence Valley

Emma Pritchard

The smell of flood mud hangs in the air across the Clarence Valley.

Throughout the past several days, residents and visitors to the region watched the rain fall and the rivers rise.

Numerous local roads and access points were closed, the communities of Ulmarra, Cowper and Brushgrove and lower areas of Southgate were ordered to evacuate, Yamba, Maclean, Copmanhurst and surrounding areas were cut off by rising water, the Bluff Point and Ulmarra ferries ceased operating, sections of Wooli Road, Lawrence Road and Six Mile Lane collapsed due to the immense deluge, dedicated SES volunteers, NSW Ambulance and emergency services personnel worked around the clock, responding to over 250 requests for assistance and conducting more than 25 flood rescues, low lying areas became inundated, local businesses were forced to close temporarily with many owners and employees unable to travel due to rising floodwater, boats broke free of their moorings on the Clarence River at Grafton, emergency evacuation centres were established at local schools and residents and visitors surveyed river levels with a mixture of caution and interest.

Clarence Valley residents were continually advised to listen to updates and to act accordingly as the Mann, Nymboida, Orara, Boyd and Clarence Rivers continued rising as the rain continued falling.

By 2pm on March 23, the Clarence River had reached the 4.2m mark at the Prince Street gauge in Grafton and plenty of residents were keen to check the river level for themselves.

On March 24, the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) upgraded its predicted peak for the Clarence River from 6m to 6.2m.

On their website, the BoM stated major flooding was occurring along the Clarence River at Grafton, moderate flooding was occurring at Ulmarra and minor flooding was occurring at Maclean.

River levels were also affected by tides, with a high tide on the Clarence River occurring at Grafton at 10am and 10pm.

The Clarence River reached the major flood level of 5.4m at the Prince Street gauge on March 24 and continued rising, eventually peaking at 6.56m later that night.

The Clarence River peaked at a level of 5.1m on March 24 at Ulmarra with major flooding.

At Maclean, the Clarence River peaked at 2.66m on a high tide early in the morning on March 25 with major flooding.

At Coutts Crossing, the Orara River peaked at 11.6m on March 25, shortly before 3pm and remained above the moderate flood level of 9m until March 26.

The Clarence Way between Grafton and Copmanhurst reopened to light traffic on March 25 after water across the road at Chaselings Gully, forced its closure around midday on March 23.

Yamba road was reopened to traffic on March 26 with a temporary enforced speed zone.

Clarence Valley Council announced via social media last week that they will have crews on the ground assessing all of the flooded areas throughout the Clarence Valley with safety inspections, debris clearing and road repairs likely to remain ongoing.

As the floodwater continued receding over the weekend, Grafton resident Bryn Fletcher said while several areas of the Clarence Valley were impacted by the recent flooding, she said the region was extremely lucky, considering the impact the severe wet weather had on communities further south.

“I think the Clarence Valley was pretty fortunate that we didn’t sustain a lot of damage during the flood and most importantly, no lives were lost,” she said.

“Houses, cars, everything like that can be replaced, but you can’t replace a life.”

Her partner Harrison Jurd agreed.

“I don’t think it was a bad flood, not really,” he admitted.

“When you consider how catastrophic the 2013 flood was, this one was smaller in comparison, even though it was still considered a major flood.

“The SES and all the emergency services people always do a great job to keep everyone safe, and they did that again this time.

“I give them a big thumbs up.”

As the Clarence River receded below minor flood level over the weekend, the Bureau of Meteorology’s latest forecast indicate Grafton may experience a shower or two over the next week.

“As long as I get my lawn mowed before more rain arrives, I’ll be happy,” Mr Jurd said happily.