Gerry Hunter showing the level of the 1996 and 2009 deluges.
Gerry Hunter showing the level of the 1996 and 2009 deluges. Trevor Veale

One year after flash flood

DENISE and Gerry Hunter didn’t muck about after the flash flood of November 1996 roared through their Coffs Harbour house.

They called in the house movers and raised their Moonee Street house a full storey, setting their 1967-built home on a brick ground level structure, with tiled floors and polished timber stair treads on a metal frame so the water could flow through without damaging their house.

Although they planned for it, Denise Hunter said they never really expected to experience another storm like the localised downpour which roared through the Coffs Creek basin and flooded the centre of the city on November 23, 1996.

But on the eve of the anniversary of the March 31, 2009 flood, the Hunters are looking back at two cleanups in the past 12 months as water washed down Moonee St and through the lower level of their creekside home into Coffs Creek.

The March 31, 2009, floodwater reached as high as Denise Hunter’s shoulder. The November 2009 flood was lower but still damaged appliances, power points, doors, furniture and their garden.

Keen gardener Denise, like many other stormwater victims, has just picked up her gardening gloves again.

She said she lost heart for the task last year, especially after losing her trampoline and outdoor furniture, then having to chain her newly-replaced furniture to the veranda post to stop it washing away a week after she bought it.

Last week she found a child’s singlet caught in the bushes, a sad final storm water memento. The March 31 deluge caught up items stacked on footpaths for a council hard waste cleanup and redistributed them across the city’s backyards, roads and homes.

In spite of insurance battles over quotes that proposed premium rises of more than 700 per cent, broken fences and long days spent cleaning away smelly mud, Denise says every storm drama has given them another lesson to learn, like moving their hot water system upstairs.

Gerry, who has spent his working life in structural engineering, said years ago overland flow (storm water runoff) in the Coffs Harbour area was estimated at 15 per cent but today, with the increase in hard surfaces, it is estimated at 55 per cent.

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