Another blow for regions hit by bushfires, COVID
One year ago the owners of the Just Brows salon in Port Macquarie were told to shut up shop indefinitely because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Exactly one year later, on Friday evening, they were desperately placing sandbags at the front door, hoping to save it from the fast-rising waters of the Hastings River.
Theirs is just one of many harrowing stories coming out of the devastating floods that have hit NSW over the past two days, with the state's north copping the brunt.
Jigna, who owns the Port Macquarie salon, said this was another major blow after the financial impact of COVID.
"I don't want to think about what's going to happen on March 19 next year," she said.
The water had receded slightly last night, but was still threatening the salon and about 10 other shops on the street.
"I was there until 2am putting sandbags on my shop because they were telling us the tide might come and it would be bad," said Jigna, who has owned the salon for almost four years. "We put in more than 100 sandbags in front of every shop around there."
Port Macquarie and surrounding areas up the Hastings River had seen as much as 400mm of rain in 24 hours to yesterday afternoon.
With the power off and almost all shops shuttered in the centre of town, Chop 'n Chill restaurant owner Jacqueline Cudmore opened her doors to a large group of travellers who had been evacuated from a nearby tourist park.
Unable to drive because her own home was cut off, she ran a kilometre in gum boots to higher ground where she was picked up.
"We have no power but we've got all the people who were stranded and we're feeding them because they can't get into their caravans," she said. "We're all here in the dark eating cheese and biscuits because I can't cook them anything."
While there have so far been no reports of lives lost during the storm, large areas of flooded farmland have led to the loss of cattle and other animals.
Chrissy, from Hastings River Horse Riding, which is located on the banks of the Hastings River just outside Wauchope, was shocked to see dead cattle floating down river.
"It's just so sad," she said. "It was a little bit scary moving all of the horses around and getting ready to implement that emergency plan."
Fred, who runs the Hastings Co-Op Cedar petrol station in Wauchope, about 20km inland from Port Macquarie, believed the town had been mostly spared, but said an SES volunteer had just told him of catastrophic damage further up the river.
"He came in here and said he'd had enough of seeing homes float down the river," he said. "He said there were a lot of homes destroyed up there."
Further south in Harrington, near the entrance to the Manning River, Francis Nahow found himself in another anxious wait after almost losing his home to bushfires last year.
The father of seven was "blessed" during the bushfires when his mate saved his home but fears it could now go in a flood.
Water was this morning licking at his Beach St door. Yet a year ago a towering inferno at the back of his property became a symbol of the devastating fires seen around the world.
His mate Rob McPherson, a Rural Fire Service volunteer who defended the home in November 2019, was back yesterday with a pump and hose trying to shift water into a drain.
They were winning but only just.
Meanwhile there was some good news, when a bride who feared she would miss her wedding in flood-stricken Wingham, on the state's mid-north coast, was saved at the last minute.
Kate Fotheringham's parents' home became an island surrounded by water early yesterday and Ms Fotheringham took to social media to plead for help.
Just before 2pm, her plea was answered with a chopper, and the bride was flown to Wingham for the ceremony.
Ms Fotheringham, who is also expecting a child, said the usually narrow Dingo Creek turned into a dam, and the SES has warned Wingham locals to evacuate near floodwaters.
"I'm pregnant so my partner doesn't want me to get in a boat. It's ridiculously stressful," she said.
"On Friday, when we were setting up I thought 'I'm wearing gumboots to my wedding and that's OK', but it's not funny any more."
The prospect of missing the wedding was devastating to her but also to her father, who narrowly escaped death in October when two trees fell on him.
He was left with multiple broken bones and a punctured lung but the upcoming wedding of his daughter kept him in fighting spirits.
"My dad had a horrific accident … he had to learn how to walk again and today he is going to walk me down the aisle," Ms Fotheringham said.
"It's been such a rollercoaster of emotions because Dad almost died in October and now we can't even get to the aisle.
"I've had a few tears this morning just because … you don't plan to get through one of the biggest floods in 30 years to get to your wedding."
Originally published as Another blow for regions hit by bushfires, COVID