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Ulmarra resident of 44 years Robert McFarlane shared this photo with the Clarence Valley Independent, highlighting the impact of the unprecedented flood on local residents in the riverside community. Image: Contributed

Ulmarra residents reflect on unprecedented flood

Emma Pritchard

 

Robert and Lesley McFarlane had never seen anything like it before.

Since moving into their River Street home 44 years ago, the couple has experienced many floods in the Clarence Valley.

But the long-time Ulmarra residents unanimously agreed this one was unprecedented.

As the Clarence River continued to rise, it breached the levee protecting the riverside community less than two hours before high tide, late into the night on February 28.

Within a day, Ulmarra was inundated.

“I’d never seen the water come in that far before,” Mr McFarlane recalled.

“We’ve been living here since 1978, and this was the first flood where we had water in our backyard.

“The water has come up to our front gate before during previous floods, but this was the first time it had come into our property.

“We had 12cm of water up the clothesline.

Ulmarra resident of 44 years Robert McFarlane shared this photo with the Clarence Valley Independent, highlighting the impact of the unprecedented flood on local residents in the riverside community. Image: Contributed
Ulmarra was inundated as the Clarence River breeched the levee and further water from Coldstream flooded the town following heavy rainfall. Image: Contributed

“The water came over the levee in front of our place on Monday (February 28), then it finally went away on Tuesday (March 1) afternoon, and by the next morning I thought I’d be mowing the lawn, then the water from Coldstream came in, and Ulmarra was inundated again.

“I’d never seen anything like it.

“I definitely wasn’t mowing the next day, instead, I was sandbagging the septic tank.

“It was definitely an unprecedented flood.”

The McFarlanes, who live in a raised house, said several homes in their street had water underneath them.

“We had a row of sandbags across the roller doors at the front and back, so we were sweet,” Mr McFarlane explained.

“The SES crews were filling sandbags and did a very good job stacking them around neighbouring properties to help protect them.

“The locals here are used to floods and everyone was pitching in and helping each other to lift furniture and move belongings up high, but no one thought the water would come in as high as it did.

“It was unbelievable.”

Following several conversations with other residents throughout the area, Mr McFarlane said everyone was in agreeance the unprecedented water levels in Ulmarra stemmed from heavily saturated paddocks and additional rainfall on the nearby flood plains, resulting in major flooding in Coldstream and subsequently, in Ulmarra.

“There was nowhere for the water to go,” Mr McFarlane said.

“The flood plain from Swan Creek to the back of Ulmarra fills quickly, then it spills over.

“But I don’t think anyone expected the volume of water from Coldstream to inundate Ulmarra.

“We’d never known that to happen before.”

While the couple confirmed they did not sustain any serious damage to their property during the recent flooding and only incurred minimal disruptions due to power outages, they praised the efforts of locals, volunteers and emergency services who worked tirelessly to assist those in need and deliver supplies to residents inundated on surrounding properties.

“Ulmarra is a very strong and resilient community, and everyone looks after one another,” he said.

“We love living here.”

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