Lismore Floods

I don’t really know what to say about the floods in Lismore, except they’ve had a deep impact on me, even though I’m many hundreds of kilometres away, and even though for the most part, I’m reasonably relaxed about floods at home, as I have written previously.

“Yeah the river’s up, but it’s nothing to worry about”, I’ve often said to my family previously. They usually rely on me for forecasts, interpretations from the SES/Weather Bureau etc. And for the most part, I tell them not to worry. But this time around. when it was clear about how bad things could be, I told them to worry. I was especially concerned for my older family members. They might have lived through floods in 1954 and 1974, and it was all okay, but this time around, they’re in their 60s and 70s, and no longer as able to move around as much. I’m actually a bit grumpy with them, and their choices to “stay at home” this time, when I was clear with them about the risk. There’ll be a “family debrief” I’m sure. From afar it was difficult to think of my family facing such difficult times.

In explaining my own feelings, I went part of the way this week, on the radio show I present, Editor’s Choice, introducing some interviews from some people from home.

This time a week ago my members of my family were surrounded by about six feet of water. It was, literally, lapping their floor boards. They live in South Lismore, and that’s where I grew up, too.

One of my earliest childhood memories is of the 1974 flood. I remember. It was Sunday night, I was 8 years old, and my dad and I went down the backyard, and knowing a flood was on the way, we went under the house to secure the washing machine in case it floated away, and next door, to secure our car on what we thought was higher ground. We went upstairs, watched the Wonderful World Of Disney, and by the time, the show was over, our house too was surrounded by water.

Before that, my mum and dad told me stories of the 1954 flood, of living in a low-set house, where the water reached the top of the windows, and they lived in the rooftop for four or five days. Mum, dad, my four sisters, my granny, and my uncle. This was the days before the State Emergency Service, when hundreds of people in the area died from drowning.

And now it’s happened again, as Lismore, and many other parts of Australia have either experienced major floods, or have succumbed to Cyclone Debbie. We start this week’s Editor’s Choice, with some of the experiences of the people of just one town, my home town, South Lismore, in these recordings from Samantha Turnbull from ABC Radio in Lismore.

I was on the radio last Thursday night, broadcasting to my home home town. As the team at ABC Radio in Lismore took a break “before the worst of it”, I filled in, remotely from Sydney. Because I know the area very well, and because I know what it’s like to live through a flood, I did the late shift from 11pm to 2am, when they took over again.

There was a moment of realisation for me, as I spoke to the bloke from the SES who told me how serious the problem was.

But in  the midst of it all, there was also a moment of joy, as a former school teacher, Barbara Kearney called in to say “hello”.

Thankfully, things aren’t too bad for my family, aside from some buckled walls revealing some asbestos, and losing a little bit of furniture. I think it’s been a wake-up call, though, that they’re no longer the young people they once were, who could climb up into rooftops when the floodwaters come up.

Here’s a combination of photographs, from both family, and various sources.

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