KATE Nash narrowly escaped being swept into a flooded river on Monday night.
The young veterinary nurse was on her way to an Upper Orara property for a fortnight's house-sitting assignment when her car stalled in rising floodwaters and she was unable to restart it to back out.
A stranger to the area who had never driven that road before, she had tried to find her way via South Island loop Road but had found the Dingo Creek Bridge under water and had been told if that happened, to use the North Island Loop Road bridge.
But driving through heavy rain, she never reached the bridge, where the water was already 0.4m over the deck.
Her car stalled at the bottom of a steep descent about 15m from the bridge.
With the current already shifting the rear of the tiny white Holden Astra, Kate Nash climbed out through the car window and managed to wade to safety, dragging her 35kg Rhodesian ridgeback dog Woofer with her.
But she was unable to save the brand new car, which was one day old and which Ms Nash was driving home for its new owner.
The little sedan was sucked into the river and marooned on the concrete kerb of the bridge.
The car was insured.
"The water was only up to my knees but the current was really strong," Ms Nash said.
"I was going to go back and get my laptop and handbag but I went up to Rowena's house and she said it would be under water.
Rowena Vanderpoel, who lives beside the bridge, said she knew it was a stranger to the area when she saw the lights coming down the hill about 7.30pm on Monday and she had advised Kate it would be too dangerous to go back to the car.
Ms Vanderpoel said before the police arrived 20 minutes later, the car had been swept away.
Lost in the car were all Kate Nash's notes, assignments and textbooks for her veterinary nursing course.
The young driver said she had been told that the level of the road was actually lower where she stalled than it was on the bridge itself, creating a trap for those unfamiliar with the road.
Several residents said the river rose and fell very swiftly, meaning council hazard signs on the approach were often not in place before the water was at a dangerous level.
There have been suggestions that nearby residents like Ms Vanderpoel could be supplied with signs to place at the turnoff to North Island Loop Road from Upper Orara Road.