Hundreds of partygoers celebrating New Year’s Eve at Upper Main Arm near Mullumbimby were stranded for the night and a reported 10 cars swept away in flash flooding caused by a severe thunderstorm.
The storm dumped up to 200mm of rain in just a few hours in the hills behind Mullumbimby.
Panic gripped some in the dance party who saw cars float by in the creek around Kohinur Hall as the storm lashed the area, also bringing down trees across roads.
Fears people may have been sleeping in cars parked near several causeways near the hall and swept away were allayed when dance-party organisers interrupted the event to account for owners and passengers of the cars.
Organisers told prevellers, many from other regions, were told to stay put and not to try and cross causeways.
‘There are also kids at this party and it was feared some of the littlies may have been sleeping in the cars,’ one partygoer told Echonetdaily.
‘There was not much many owners of the cars swept away could do as the creeks rose so quickly when it started raining, it was was just like a water bomb had hit the place.’
Some people who tried to drive through a nearby causeway were stranded when the floodwaters pushed it off the road. They were forced to wait for the water to recede before getting out of their car.
The storm also caused a major landslip which blocked the road at Upper Wilsons Creek.
Part of the road at Upper Coopers Creek was washed away by the heavy rain.
Byron Shire Council work crews are out and about today clearing debris off those roads.
Partygoers from Kohinur Hall at a nearby flooded causeway yesterday morning. Photo Tara and Peter Leishman
An organiser of the Kohinur Hall event told Echonetdaily that media reports of the number of cars swept away varied, with the ABC reporting that 10 had gone missing in the flood waters.
‘I personally saw four in the creek, but who knows how far any others ended up? But the attitude of those people who lost their cars was fantastic, they just went straight back to the dance floor,’ Min said.
‘That summed up how the 300-400 people in the hall and surrounds coped, there was a real community spirit, everyone looked out for each other, locals in our crew also volunteer for the bush firies or other emergency services, so we were well prepared,’ she said.
An ambulance crew which responded to a call for assistance for a person suffering a minor ailment earlier in the night was stranded by the flood, then was on hand to deal with other minor injuries from the crowd.
‘In a sense, that was reassuring to have them there as well as our trained volunteers,’ Min said.
‘What could have been a tragedy, say a downing or electrocution was avoided, our priority was safety first, we pleaded with them to stay and party on and not try to get back home.
‘Many young people, some from Coffs Harbour and Tweed Heads, had never been here before nor experienced a flash flood, and many were very excited about being flooded in.
‘In the end the Kohinur Forest Stomp 2014 was a huge success and a Facebook site has been set up to share photos of the night (under Kohinur Forest Stomp).’
Meanwhile, the heavy downpour kept Byron Shire Council staff busy, with trees down in Wilsons Creek Road and Coolamon Scenic Drive.
Wilsons Creek Road was closed until about 4pm yesterday afternoon so crews could remove the trees at both sites.
Geotechnical engineers had also inspected the landslip at Wilsons Creek Road (about a kilometre further inland from where the road was recently repaired).
Traffic controls are in place and the road is currently single lane access.
Prior to the recent storm, Byron shire had repaired, or in the process of repairing, 10 landslips sites as a result of storms in early 2013.
Geotechnical engineers will also inspect these sites over coming days.
This morning, geotechnical engineers inspected the Wanganui Road and Hounbrook Road slips and reported no further movement at these sites.
Other areas affected included washed out causeways, some scouring of road edges and reports of trees across roads at hinterland areas of Upper Coopers Creek, Springvale Road, Settlement Road, Bencluna Road, Gittoes Lane, Tickles Road and Left Bank Road.
Council crews are currently working throughout the Shire with the excavator at Goremans Road and Springvale Road.
Any road concerns can be reported to the afterhours emergency contact phone number 02 6622 7022.