ON that awful long weekend in June, 2007 it was hard to imagine how it was ever going to end.
The clash of storm fronts and freak meteorological conditions that smashed the NSW coast between Sydney and Newcastle built in intensity from early Friday, June 8, peaked at midnight, but continued to batter the region for that whole long, dark weekend.
By early afternoon on Friday torrential rain in the Somersby area of theCentral Coast turned the usually tame Piles Creek into a thunderous beast that gouged at weaknesses in the Old Pacific Highway above it and collapsed.
Several cars were able to stop in time. Adam Holt, driving to work, did not.
As Newcastle braced for thestorm centre to hit the shocking news from the Central Coast came through -that Adam Holt, partner Roslyn Bragg, their daughters Madison, 3, and Jasmine, 2, and Roslyn’s nephew Travis, 9, were lost in the raging Piles Creek and presumed dead.
Off the Newcastle coast the MV Pasha Bulker and other coal ships that did not respond to numerous warnings to head out to sea were already in serious trouble by that time, as an 18-metre swell did its best to tear them apart.
More than 100,000 homes across the region lost power that weekend, making the news that did come through seem all the more horrific –aClarencetown couple washed away in their car, presumed dead;a man lost in raging water in a drain at Lambton, and on Saturday, June 9, another man killed when his car was crushed by a falling tree at Brunkerville.
And the rain just kept falling, the wind kept howling, and it was days before the first glimpse of sunshine allowed people to emerge from battered homes to count the cost.
For some that storm was a turning point in their lives.
Jim and Helen Bragg have the lives they lived before June 8, 2007 and the lives they have lived since, where a beautiful lawn cemetery has become their “second home”. They lost five family members that day.
The Pasha Bulker storm joins the Sygna storm, the Maitland floodand the Newcastle earthquake as one of the most significant natural disasters to ever hit the Hunter region. They are events that remind us how little we can control the environment, but how resilient we are when put to the test.