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The Clarence River lapped at the 4.7m mark at the Prince St gauge at 6:15pm on March 23, prior to peaking at 6.56m the following night on March 24. Image: Emma Pritchard.

Clarence Valley residents and visitors observe floodwater

Emma Pritchard

As he watched the eerie brown water of the Clarence River flow past him, Sydney visitor Anton Jacques was astounded by what he saw.

It was 2pm on March 23, and the Clarence River had just reached the 4.2m mark at the Prince St gauge when Mr Jacques, who lives in Newport in the Northern Beaches region of Sydney, decided to have a look at the rising floodwater alongside other visitors and locals.

Describing himself as shocked and scared by what he saw, Mr Jacques said he was “completely amazed and beguiled” by the volume of water in the river.

“Never before had I seen such a huge river and it was pretty scary and intense,” he declared.

Originally from South Africa, Mr Jacques moved to Australia three years ago and visited the Clarence Valley for the first time last week after his travels south were disrupted due to the wet weather.

After admitting he was terrified by the water lapping at the 4.2m mark, his expression turned to one of sheer terror when the Clarence Valley Independent informed him the record flood level was over 8m, recorded in 2013.

“I don’t believe that,” he said.

“Never would I have guessed 8m to be a previous height, that’s just horrifying to imagine.”

While Mr Jacques gathered his thoughts and returned to his friend’s house where he is currently staying, Grafton locals Greg and Cathie Page casually walked to the end of Prince St to view the river level after following weather updates from the Bureau of Meteorology online.

“We’ve lived in Grafton for several years,” Mr Page revealed.

“We lived through the 2011 flood, and we lived through the big flood in 2013, so to see the water level sitting around 4m, it wasn’t as serious compared to what we’ve previously seen.”

“All floods are dangerous, but the thing to remember is you can’t always predict what Mother Nature will do and you can’t control it either,” Mrs Page added.

“As long as you keep yourself as safe as possible, you can’t do more than that.

“It has been good to see the rain, but I think it is fair to say we’ve had enough for the time being.”

While the Clarence River peaked at a level of 6.56m late on March 24 with major flooding still occurring, many locals and visitors to the region took an interest in the floodwater.

Popular vantage points included both bridges over the Clarence River at Grafton, the Grafton Rowing Club, Carrs Creek near the Fry Street railway crossing and the Fry St levee.

Many people also revealed it was a surreal feeling to walk across the new bridge during a major flood and take photos from previously unattainable angles of the old Grafton Bridge as the pylons slowly disappeared beneath the rising water.

Coffs Harbour resident Ruby Cotton said she was staggered to see the amount of water flowing under the old Grafton Bridge as she walked across the new bridge on March 24.

“It was just amazing to walk over the flooded river and look across at the old Grafton Bridge and the water flowing underneath it,” she said.

“It was a pretty cool sight, but I think any weather event is a sight to behold because it’s amazing to see how the environment changes and recovers.

“Also, I’m glad it wasn’t a massive flood like the one that happened in 2013.

“That was a scary flood.”