Author: Mark Hickey
It was on a Sunday afternoon during February of 2022 and I had become aware that the continuous rain and incoming high tide were going to raise the flood waters to an extent that may impact our office. I had assumed that our work building in Windsor, built in the last few years, would have been built above the 2011 flood levels.
After some prompting from the wife, I decided to investigate further...I reached out to some of our fellow tenants late in the afternoon and they confirmed that McDonald Road was indeed underwater and that our carpark was also about to go under. Hell!
Given that Windsor is in a flood zone our insurance doesn’t include flood damage and knowing that we had a number of expensive drones and LiDar sensors on the ground floor I saw the urgent need to move these to higher ground. Not to mention the other furniture and electronic items. So, I finished dinner and headed to the area, planning on walking in if I had to.
Parking just into Le Geyt Street in Windsor, which I knew must be meters above the water, my plan was to walk via Bowen Street to get to the office. Given it was raining heavily and that I would surely be walking through water, I left my phone in the car and the car keys hidden on the outside. My office key, tied to the drawstring inside of my board shorts, was the only thing that I carried on me.
Getting to Bowen Street, it quickly became obvious how far the waters had extended. There was perhaps only 75m left of Bowen Street not covered by flood water. Several cars and boats were parked here on the dry side. Some locals, beers in hand, asked what I was planning and after I told them what the plan was, they suggested that they would take me in their row boat.
There were about 5 of us, 4 walking and holding the boat and one paddling, not me. These good samaritans were going in and out helping people. Trevor was one of them, thanks to Trevor and co! We were about halfway down Bowen Street when they decided to stop and help some people calling out from a house. It was apparent that lots of people were waiting it out in their houses. The sheer number of cars parked inside properties and on the street, all under water, was evidence of how quickly the waters had come up. So sad, no doubt many of them had been through this before.
As the good samaritans had stopped I decided to keep going and thanked them for the assistance. I proceeded to walk further east on Bowen Street, as the waters kept rising. Shortly after, I was faced with the decision of turning back or keep going. As I was most of the way along Bowen Street, and having confidence in my own abilities, I decided to continue on to save my gear and potentially my business.
Getting to McDonald Road shortly after, I was making good progress, I noted a slight current continuing to the east, down past McDonald Road. I pushed through this and soon after found the driveway into our carpark. With about a foot of water in the carpark, heavy rain ongoing and the tide not yet full, there wasn’t any time to rest yet. A number of cars were parked in the carpark, including a few Teslas that won’t be go anywhere anytime soon, I headed to our office at the far end of the complex.
I had been communicating with my next-door neighbour Ben and was planning on getting him to message my family after arriving. Unfortunately his premises was locked up and dark so I couldn’t raise him. I would have stayed the night in my office rather than risk going out again. Still, with no comms I didn’t want people worrying about me and possibly risking themselves looking for me so decided to get the office sorted and leave quickly.
Entering the building we had about 10cm of water on the bottom level, the emergency lighting was still on so there was a little light to work with. The first issue was opening our key safe. With no light, I couldn’t read the tumblers on the safe, groan... I eventually worked out that I could use the illuminated screen on the A/C remote control to read the tumblers and open the safe. Winning! With the keys in hand, I was able to open our security cupboards. It was good timing as the water was only lapping the bottom of our various plastic hard cases that were protecting our GNSS systems and LiDar systems. I quickly moved these upstairs, along with a few drones. Other office equipment and furniture were also raised up off of the ground onto tables. At this point, the water was up to approximately 30cm in the office (the high-water mark on a wood feature in the office now highlights this as the high water mark), and with nothing more to be achieved, I decided to get the heck out.
At this point there was about half a meter of water in the carpark, the Teslas and a Volvo were not looking good. I waded through the carpark to McDonald Road, this was at approximately 8pm. Still raining heavily, I entered the water on McDonald Road which was now over my head when standing. No turning back now. Swimming south back to Bowen Street I took a rest on the eastern side of McDonald Road as a boat with spotlights came up from the south and turned west into Bowen street, I waved but they didn’t see me. The current was now a little stronger as I swam west into Bowen Street, trying to not think about bull sharks, and took a rest on the top of a stop sign. Swimming west up the middle of Bowen Street I could see some activity in the distance. About halfway along, the water level was low enough that I could start to walk. At about this point a rescue boat passed me heading west, I declined the invitation to board as I was now walking and they had others already on board. Another 100m or so and a police boat passed me, also heading west. I mentioned that some people back along Bowen Street needed help more than me. This time I didn’t have a choice as one of the officers ordered "Get in mate!". Now on another boat and with about 100m left in my ‘adventure’, we did a u-turn to go back east and help other people.
It felt a little surreal as we entered properties, clearing fences in the boat and watching for submerged cars. We visited three houses and rescued a further 6 or 7 people before heading west again. We reached the last of the water with about 15 meters of Bowen Street not submerged. Miraculously as we stepped out of the boat near Lutwyche Road, the hammering rain stopped. Great timing.
With me only wearing my board shorts, office key secured within, and probably looking like a drowned rat I headed back to my car. Fortunately, my car keys were still dry and where I had left them. I grabbed a towel from the car and dried myself as best I could. I then quickly turned on my phone and let everyone know that I was ok.
The next day, Monday, we started the clean-up. Mud was everywhere.. A big thanks to my family, Samie, Ava and William and my Office Manager Lisa for helping with the clean-up. In the end, our damage was restricted to a number of swollen cupboards. The water came up again during the late morning with the high tide although nothing like the previous high tide. The worst of it had passed. Good luck to all our neighbours in Windsor who perhaps weren’t so lucky!