WILD rain and wind lashed the Hawkesbury over the weekend, during which up to 90 calls were made to the local State Emergency Service (SES) unit for help with weather-related emergencies.
Sunday afternoon saw both the Windsor and Richmond bridges closed by 3pm due to rising flood waters. It was the first time in 28 years that water had submerged the decks of the two bridges. Minor flooding was also reported at Sackville and Lower Portland, and Richmond lowlands residents were evacuated to higher ground. Moderate flooding occurred along the Colo River at Putty Road.
NSW SES Hawkesbury Unit controller Kevin Jones said the tally for "storm-related jobs, trees and leaking roofs" from Friday, February 7 to Monday, February 10 had been "well up in to the 80s and 90s".
"We also get what we call 'flood rescues', which are people who drive into flood waters, are stranded in houses, or are waist deep in water, and we've had several of these, probably up around the 10 or 12 mark," he told the Gazette from SES Hawkesbury headquarters in Wilberforce.
He added flood rescues had involved everything from "animals stranded in water, people in cars surrounded by water who couldn't drive to where they wanted to go" right through to "the Hawkesbury Paddlewheeler broke its moorings and was floating down the river and we assisted in securing that.".
"We also had a few people who were isolated and for medical reasons needed assistance. There's been a lot going on!" Mr Jones said.
On Monday, a school bus was caught in flood water on Reedy Road, Maraylya, and SES Hawkesbury, with the help from Oakville Rural Fire Service, successfully rescued a bus driver and six children from the bus.
Also on Monday, Hawkesbury City Council notified the Environment Protection Authority and NSW Health that the McGraths Hill Wastewater Facility had been switched off due to flooding. Four pump stations in the surrounding areas of McGraths Hill, South Windsor and Windsor Downs were also switched off as they were submerged in flood waters.
With clearer skies on Monday, the Gazette was able to get out on the ground and survey some of the damage.
The suburb of South Windsor west of George Street resembled a lakeside town, with Rickabys Creek so swollen by flood waters that it was almost lapping on residents' back fences.
Lower-lying areas of the Windsor Golf Course were completely submerged.
A car was submerged in flood waters with only its roof still visible outside Windsor High School in Mulgrave.
Mr Jones said it was by no means "the worst" flood he had experienced in his decades of volunteer work at the SES, however it was one of the quickest-moving due to the sheer amount of rain that fell in the Grose River catchment.
Richmond RAAF Base recorded 52.8mm of rain in the 24 hours to 9am Sunday, and 86.8mm in the 24 hours following.
The Hawkesbury River at North Richmond peaked at 11.4 metres around 8pm Sunday night with major flooding.
The Hawkesbury River at Windsor peaked near 9.2 metres around 11pm Sunday with moderate flooding.
Mr Jones of Hawkesbury SES said locals could expect both The Richmond and Windsor bridges to be closed until at least Tuesday night.
- Latest flood warnings: www.bom.gov.au/nsw/warnings/flood/nepean-hawkesburyrivers.shtml
- Road closures and ferries: www.livetraffic.com/
- If you need emergency assistance call the NSWSES on 132 500
- If the situation is life threatening call triple zero (000).