Friday 2 December 2011

the saga of the floods in Moree

warning: very long post!

The optometrist that mum has been seeing in her local town (Bingara) visits about once every couple of months but is based in Moree, which is a smallish town in north-western NSW. It seems that Ross is the only optometrist in the area!

A specialist eye surgeon from Queensland's Gold Coast visits Moree two or three times a year to do cataract (and other eye) surgery at the small hospital for patients who would otherwise have to travel 1000 kilometres (625 miles) or more to get the appropriate treatment.

Mum had to see the specialist on Thursday morning before her scheduled surgery on Friday. She had to see him again on Saturday morning to have the bandages removed and to get the prescriptions and instructions for the various eye drops that she would have to use for the next four weeks!

I travelled to Bingara on Wednesday. Due to track maintenance, the train wasn't running, so I had to go to Tamworth by coach, then change to another coach to Bingara. Due to the torrential rain that fell non-stop on Wednesday, we were more than an hour late getting into Tamworth and, of course, more than an hour late getting into Bingara, finally arriving at 7:35pm! I had left home at 7:55am so it was a very long day!

Thursday morning was warm and overcast.
taken from mum's front yard looking towards Moree
We drove the 119 kilometres (75 miles) to Moree in dry conditions but this photo shows that the rain was on its way!
Behold! The rain comes! Notice how flat the Moree Plains are.
We arrived in Moree, had morning tea, and then saw the specialist as required. We booked into our motel, visited the tourist information centre (across the road) and had some lunch at the indigenous art gallery in town. By then it had started to rain.

The rain got steadily worse; so much that, on Friday, I had to drive mum to the hospital which was only 200metres from our motel! Mum's surgery was scheduled for 9am and they assured me she would be ready in less than an hour. I didn't see her until after 11am by which time it was bucketing down! We spent the afternoon quietly in the motel room. Unfortunately for mum, she had left her hearing aids at home so she was unable to follow the audio book I had specifically organised for her for this occasion! She tried to knit but ended up just watching television for most of the afternoon.

That evening we got a phone call from the hospital telling us we could go back to Bingara if we wanted to avoid being flooded in, and speak to the specialist by phone the next morning! But mum wouldn't budge! She didn't want me to drive in the rain and the dusk (that hour before dark is always a difficult time for driving, particularly in the country where native animals, usually kangaroos, are likely to appear in the middle of the road quite unexpectedly!)

And so we stayed -- probably not one of my greatest decisions (but my mother had spoken so what could I do?)!

It continued to rain heavily; during the night it got worse. At 3am on Saturday, the rain woke mum up (no hearing aids remember) - the water was literally coming down in sheets. I have never seen anything like it except during brief thunderstorms; but this wasn't a thunderstorm and it wasn't brief!

The next morning we drove into town to see the specialist as scheduled and heard the news that the road to Bingara had been cut off during the night! Nothing we could do now but wait (and go for short walks between showers). At first we were told that we'd probably get out on Monday. But the river continued to rise and a major flood was declared.

The showers eased on Saturday and by mid-afternoon the sun was out. But flooding has nothing to do with current weather conditions!

Water in the hospital grounds - from rainfall not flooding!
Edward Street bridge; Saturday afternoon
We tried to go to church on Sunday morning but the street was partially flooded and I couldn't find anywhere to park the car. Even if I had, how we were supposed to get from the road to the church?
the street outside the Catholic church - doesn't look like much, does it?
now see it in context - it's too wide to jump across - about 3 metres (10 feet)
I turned left 90° to take this photo; the church is now on my right; the cars give you an idea of the extent of the flooding;
this is not from the river, this is stormwater that can't get away!

I was glad we didn't attend church; there was water over the road leading into town when we went towards the church; later the road was closed and we may have been trapped on the wrong side of the river from our motel!
Drivers and pedestrians come into town over a bridge which joins Balo Street (the main street)  here;
this is what the foot of the bridge looked like and the reason why the bridge was closed!
The river peaked on Sunday at 10.20 metres: just six centimetres (4 1/2 inches) less than the highest flood on record! The bridge separating us from the main part of town was closed due to flooding on the other side.

The police woman I spoke to later on Sunday (a hot, bright, cloudless day) told me it would be unlikely if we got out by the Gwydir Highway (the shortest route to Bingara) by Thursday and if the predicted rain returned on Tuesday, it would be at least a week!

We were paying normal rates for our motel room (about $100 per night) -- no discount for surgery or for being stranded! We had to eat take-away food or in a restaurant for dinner. (We had bought cereal, milk, plastic bowls, paper plates, bread and fillings form the supermarket after we arrived). We had to buy clothes because mum had arrived in Moree with only the clothes she was wearing plus some clean underwear, so she wore one of my lightweight skirts. I had planned to be away from home for a minimum of five days and had two lightweight skirts, three short sleeved tee shirts, plus a long denim skirt, two long sleeved tee-shirts, a tracksuit and jeans in case the weather was cool.

By Monday I'd had enough. So I made a decision (which mum didn't like but I had the car keys!!) We were leaving via the Narrabri Road. I was told I could get through to Tamworth that way! By the time I reached Narrabri, I found out that one of the roads I had planned to use had been closed since we had left Moree and we would have to go an even longer way via Coonabarabran! That story is all in a previous post so I wont bore you with it again except to say, praise the Lord, the road from Narrabri to Bingara reopened within half an hour of us leaving town!

And so, we arrived in Bingara at 4:20pm on Monday (instead of the estimated 9:30pm if I had been forced to take the longer route). Mum got to her other specialist appointment in Tamworth on Tuesday (this specialist came up from Sydney and she had had the appointment for nine months so there was no way I was letting her miss it!).

I got the coach to Tamworth and the train to Strathfield (inner west Sydney) on Wednesday, arriving only twenty minutes late! WM picked me up and drive home in the horrendous peak hour traffic with light rain falling. I closed my eyes and thought about something else entirely!!

Next year, when mum has the other eye done, we will take changes of clothes, hearing aids, a picnic set and I will make the urgent decisions!! And, because I don't think it will flood again, I will take photos of what the river should look like!

More flood photos tomorrow (I think this post is long enough!)


  1. A medical journey turned into quite an adventure. Glad you are home safely.

  2. I am still at my mom's . no rain and nowhere near as exciting . glad that you are home and safe.

  3. The eye surgery went well-that is the good news-the rest is just adventure! Live it up! Beautiful countryside pictures, tho~

  4. Glad everyone is safe and the surgery went well.What an adventure.Makes for great memories:)

  5. Good grief! What an adventure.

  6. No fun, but at least the surgery went well. Do you'll think you'll look back on it as an adventure?

  7. Wow that's some travel troubles! Lots and lots of water....


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