3 November 2022

Flash flooding fails to dampen Gunning's community spirit

| Sally Hopman
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A sea of water surrounds Gunning’s Telegraph Hotel in the main street at the height of the flash flooding on Monday night. Photo: Lauren Woodbridge.

It was about 5 pm on Monday when Lauren Woodbridge and her family started trick or treating down the main street of Gunning for Halloween.

By 5:30 pm, they were hiding under the street verandah trying to dodge the torrential rain. By 6 pm, people were on one side of the road or the other. No one could get anywhere else.

“I had never seen anything like it,” Lauren, a councillor on the Upper Lachlan Shire Council, said.

With her husband Andrew, they later went into the Telegraph Hotel at about 7:30 pm. They came out at 8 pm to see water over the bridge and half an hour after that, the pub was going under.

READ ALSO Two men missing, towns awash as flash flooding hits region

“I couldn’t believe how quickly it happened,” she said. “There was really nothing anyone could do.”

It was reported that 72mm of rain fell in a matter of hours on Monday, causing flash flooding.

Lauren said her husband, who once worked as a lifeguard at Batemans Bay, had recognised it as a rising tide, sensing quickly that something was terribly wrong.

Three women

In times of crisis, country town folk know how to help each other – as was the case in Gunning this week. Photo: Lauren Woodbridge.

“It was like he could sense the swell coming,” she said.

The water peaked at about 10 pm on Monday night but didn’t recede until about 4 am Tuesday. In what was believed to be a first for the small village in the Southern Tablelands between Yass and Goulburn, the creek behind rose and combined with the main waterway causing the deluge.

Meanwhile, every shop on the main street was damaged. The Telegraph Hotel was the hardest hit, with water rising as high as chairs in the bar, the Merino Cafe too, had its cellar flooded, twice.

The historic Coronation Theatre, which had just received a grant of $500,000 for renovation work, was also damaged. The building was flooded underneath, but fast action by the Gunning Fish River Rural Fire Service helped limit the damage. But the newly established native garden out the back was destroyed.

By Tuesday, valuable collectibles from the main street antique shop were sitting piled up outside on the street, waiting to be taken to the tip. The preschool lost a brick wall and the daycare centre its fence. The centre posted its thanks to Kennards Hire in Goulburn for delivering a temporary fence so quickly during the pouring rain.

Water was waist-high at the motel on the northern end of town whilst the iconic Bailey’s Garage, at the other end, was also inundated.

Water tank in flooded main street

It’s not every night you see a water tank floating down the main street, but Monday’s flash flooding in Gunning was far from ordinary. Photo: Upper Lachlan Shire Council.

“I don’t think one building was left undamaged,” Lauren said. “Some worse than others, but it was just terrible.”

Lauren said she had never seen so many people on the main street of Gunning at the one time before Monday night. People were all helping each other, regardless of how damaged their homes were.

“Everyone who could help, did,” she said. “People were asking what others needed, other people just turned up and helped with the clean-up.”

There were council workers, the SES and Rural Fire Service volunteers. Crews came from as far afield as Goulburn, Collector and as close as Bellmount Forest and Gunning’s own.

Much of the communication during and after the flooding was via social media, with local noticeboards inundated with offers of help ranging from hot food to blankets – to help washing those blankets. There were offers of warm baths, accommodation, trailers, and even a horse float to carry damaged material to the tip.


The Merino Cafe on the main street of Gunning was hard hit by the flash flood on Monday night. Photo: SES.

From the Gunning Service Centre, “a massive thank you” via social media “for saving what could be saved, cleaning up, removing rubbish, preparing food and checking in to see we were ok”.

Lauren said the most important thing now was for local Members of Parliament to lobby the insurance companies to ensure payouts were made as quickly as possible. “There have already been some issues with insurance companies, but we want them to act now and do the right thing.

“We want to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.”

The Member for Goulburn, Wendy Tuckerman, and the Member for Hume, Angus Taylor, were expected to visit Gunning on Friday (November 4).

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