A YEAR ago this week, the Hunter Region was being battered by one of the fiercest and most sustained storms in its recorded history.
The “April superstorm”, as it soon became known, took the lives of four people -Robin MacDonald, Colin Webb and Brian Wilson in Dungog, and Gillieston Heights grandmotherAnne Jarmain at Maitland–and caused enormous damage to city, town and country alike. As the rains kept pelting down, countless creeks and rivers burst their banks turning large expanses ofthe Lower Hunter into an unfamiliar and threatening inland sea.
It was a storm of Biblical proportion and for a while there it seemed the rain would never stop. But the skies did eventually clear,andas days became weeks, and weeks became months, the wet hardship of those times, for most of us, receded.But not for all.
A year on, and signs of the devastation are still amply visible in the hardest-hit town, Dungog, where empty lots near the river looklike missing teeth in streets where the rising waters swept entire houses clear away.
In Stroud, a proud 1860s farmhouse on the banks of Mill Creek has a new red roof, but an emptyinterior and a“for sale” sign out the front stand as symbols of the difficulties that many families will have faced in returning to the homes they love, regardless of the threat of anyfuture inundation.
But the damage to bricks and mortar is only part of the cost.
Unfortunately, the scale of the storm stretched our emergency services to the limit, and while more than 170 people were rescued during the deluge, there were shortcomings in some areas that are likely to bethe subject of further examination in the coronial inquests into the four storm fatalities that arescheduled to be held in the coming months.
But these concerns –as legitimate as they are – should not overshadow the undeniable fact that the bulk of the region’s rescue, emergency and utility organisations responded to the dramatic tasks that befell them withconfidence, practicality and determination.
Sometimes in life, bad things happen, and no amount of preparation or effort on the day can avoid a tragic outcome.A year after the April superstorm, we remember the people whose lives were snatched from them,while giving thanks that the toll wasnot as high as it might have been in the circumstances.