Debbie… sounds like a nice name right? How about when you add the word Cyclone to the front of it?!…I had 6 days to kill before I was planning on meeting my best friend in Melbourne, all flights and hostels were booked and I was super excited! I thought I could cram a quick farm visit in before I jetted off, so I went to stay at Sugarshine Farm Sanctuary in New South Wales (you can read about this amazing place here)
I had been at the sanctuary for 3 days when it started raining…and continued for 24 hours solid. After checking Facebook we soon realised that places around us were flooding, badly. Lismore, the local town was seriously under water and I must admit it was scary to see those images and know the rising water was in the next town! Luckily for us we were safe on the farm, we are high up so didn’t get flooded. The poor animals were grumpy because they had to chill in the barn all day but they were safe…thank god.
We took a drive into Lismore the day after the rain started and we were shocked to see the state it was in. Cars underwater, home flooded, boats driving through the town, helicopters flying overhead, I could not believe my eyes. We drove to a look out and you could see the full extent of the flooding, as far as you can see there was water, it was unbelievable and just reminded me of scenes in a movie. We drove back to the farm thankful that it was untouched, we were safe and so we’re the animals. Many homes had to evacuate and leave their pets behind with the water level rising, I can’t imagine how tough a decision that would have been for some families.
The following day we drove back into Lismore to help with the clean up, some of the water had subsided and people were starting to assess the damage done to their properties. Seeing families throw their ruined possessions onto a huge pile they’ve made on the street was heartbreaking. It was awful driving past house after house, all doing the same thing. We spent the whole day helping out that day and it was rewarding to see the difference a few helping hands can make.
The following day we headed back into Lismore to help out some more. This time we headed to the local pet shop which is owned by an elderly woman. It was overwhelming when we first pulled up, there was mess everywhere! A huge pile of damaged goods outside and a shop that was covered in mud and water. We spent all day moving damaged stock, taking fixtures and fittings off the wall, moving fridges and freezers, pressure washing the floor and removing the mud. The lady had managed to get the cats and birds to safety but sadly the fish tanks overflowed and washed away, it was the saddest things seeing all the empty tanks. It was a huge job but thankfully there were many people helping out. This is what struck me the most – people are great and wanna help each other.I was taken back by people’s kindness and generosity, watching everyone come together to help each other out was great to see and be a part of. People were going around donating tools and new wellies to people who were helping in the clean up. Others were going round with cars full of food that they’d prepared and were handing it out. There was even a lady and her neighbour who had cooked a huge batch of curry and were dishing it up and giving it out to the volunteers, this was so incredible to see! (and it was really yummy!)Being flooded near Lismore meant I couldn’t catch my flight to meet my best friend in Melbourne and meant that my flights and hostels would have to be cancelled and at first I was a bit bummed BUT after helping with the clean up I was happy that it had happened. I was happy to have seen Lismore, luckily I had lunch in the town one day so I got to see it before the flood took over. It was devastating to see the damage that had happened to this place but so heartwarming to see the community come together and lend a hand to get families and businesses back on their feet. I left Lismore 3 days ago and was sad to go, it’s hard knowing that it’ll be a long time before the town is back on its feet again but I know the community spirit will get them through and help the town rebuild. It’s funny how times like these really bring people together, it was an emotional week but one I wouldn’t change, I’m so glad I was there to meet the wonderful people of Lismore and lend a hand.