Soaking wet, with nowhere to go and nothing but the clothes on their backs.
That was the reality for dozens of residents on Monday afternoon as they watched their homes in Riverstone in Sydney’s west become submerged in floodwaters.
The homeowners have lost everything, and they know they won’t get a cent from insurers because the properties were built on the floodplains along the riverbank.
Some of the homes have been in the family for generations and many have experienced flooding before, but few have seen anything quite so severe.
They all know the worst is yet to come, and that when the rain stops, the ‘back wash’ will bring even more pain their way as floodwaters stuck in higher ground pour back toward the river, likely flooding their homes further.
Several homes along along Marsden Road in Riverstone are completely submerged, including Dawn Henning’s house (pictured)
Dawn Henning (left) is doing her best to keep her neighbours, like Mick Meyn (right) in high spirits as they all lose their homes
Even still, Dawn Henning, who is in her 70s, watched her father build their home and has seen several major floods, said she still isn’t convinced this is worse than the 1961 crisis that destroyed much of the region.
Her home is entirely underwater. All that’s visible is parts of her tin roof. Her nephew, Connor, was able to row down the street on a small tinny earlier on Monday and salvage what few belongings were stored in the attic.
To access it, he had to rip the roof apart from above – which is where he’d stopped the boat – and climb inside. He rescued some photos and irreplaceable items that were of personal significance to the family.
Others weren’t so lucky.
Several houses along Marsden Road are entirely submerged, while the water creeps closer to houses on the other side of the road
Several boats, cars and trucks that were left behind have become submerged in rising floodwaters
The homeowners have lost everything, and they know they won’t get a cent from insurers because the properties were built on the floodplains along the riverbank. Pictured: The location of the street
Ms Henning’s neighbour Mick Meyn was beside himself when he arrived back home on Monday to learn his house had gone under.
He’d self evacuated on Friday along with several other neighbours and explained that while he knew what was to come, nothing could prepare him for what he saw.
The road was blocked by water, but emergency services crews weren’t officially evacuating residents in nearby houses and Mr Meyn said he felt abandoned in a time of crisis.
‘We’ve been forgotten,’ Mr Meyn said. ‘We’ve been abandoned and we’ve been ignored. It’s just horrible.
‘My house is gone, again. All gone. Everything… I’ve lost it all, and help just doesn’t come.
‘It’s like they’ve forgotten about us or like they just don’t care.’
For Ms Lauder and her family, getting all 17 dogs out was her number one priority, and she’s hopeful the flood waters won’t reach the inside of her home, which sits slightly higher
Ms Lauder’s neighbour also saved her 10 dogs and was waiting at the cemetery for further assistance
Mr Meyn said he was shocked that there weren’t many evacuation centres set up and that people were encouraged to stay with family and friends when they fled their homes.
The reality is that for many of the people in effected areas, their family and friends they usually turn to have also – or are expecting to be – evacuated too.
‘So we’ll have to make other arrangements later,’ Mr Meyn said. ‘We’ll probably move around a fair bit.’
Making matters worse for Mr Meyn is the knowledge that his house was not – and could not be – insured for flood, because he lives in a floodplain.
For a second time, Mr Meyn will be out of pocket every expense it costs to fix his house – and he’s not alone.
Yvonne Lauder and her 17 dogs evacuated her Marsden Road property at 4am on Monday
Some boys got caught up at a crossing which has been flooded
Down the road at the Riverstone Cemetery, some of Mr Meyn’s neighbours had sought higher ground and were waiting out the storm.
Yvonne Lauder and her 17 dogs evacuated her Marsden Road property at 4am on Monday.
She and her convoy stopped near the cemetery and have been standing in the pouring rain there ever since, trying to re evaluate the situation as water levels rise.
For her family, getting all 17 dogs out was her number one priority, and she’s hopeful the flood waters won’t reach the inside of her home, which sits slightly higher.
Just in case, they’ve moved whatever they could onto the second level and into the roof, but they know that if the water does get in, they’re going to be significantly out of pocket financially.
One car was seen driving through rising floodwaters to go inspect the driver’s home – which was submerged
Bel Cone stayed back on Monday afternoon to monitor water levels, but was prepared to take her horses to higher ground at a moment’s notice
Ms Lauder explained that most insurers ‘won’t come anywhere near’ the houses near the river, and the ones that will have exorbitant prices.
‘It’s a risk we take and a decision we have to accept now, no matter the outcome,’ she said.
In spite of Ms Henning’s enormous loss already this week, she’s done her best to keep spirits high among her neighbours, explaining that having a sense of humour is ‘the only thing that keeps us going’ during hardship.
But she also knows the worst is yet to come, explaining there is a three step process when experiencing flooding this severe.
Even after the rain stops, Ms Henning explained there will come a point when the water becomes stagnant before starting to ‘travel backwards toward the rivers and low lying areas again’.
Even after the rain stops, Ms Henning explained there will come a point when the water becomes stagnant before starting to ‘travel backwards toward the rivers and low lying areas again’
Water levels are continuing to rise even on the other side of Marsden Road, and neighbours on higher ground say it is the first time they have ever been evacuated
She, along with all of her neighbours, are expecting the ‘backwash’ to be devastating over the coming days.
They then have to keep a close eye on water levels at their properties, and as soon as the water has receded they must get in with a high pressure hose and water down all interiors in their house to remove the dirty, unsanitary and often muddy water.
It takes at least three months to properly dry.
‘You can imagine the stench,’ she said while shaking her head. ‘It’s not nice at all during that process.’
‘Unless you’ve been through a fire or a flood, you have no idea. It’s always easy to imagine what you would or wouldn’t do but you really don’t know until you live through it.’
But Ms Henning said the little street, tucked away toward the back of Riverstone, would stick together.
‘We’re like a family down here. We’ll stick together and we’ll get through this, just like we have before.’
Some of the kids in the street embraced the day off school by kicking around in the water