Given we are approaching the an event in eastern NSW that resembles an onshore airstream with the potential of a rainfall event, I thought this is a great time to reflect on this significant event 20 years ago - the 5th August 1986 Floods. It was the first major flooding since 1978.
The August 1986 floods is an event that lives in the mind of any Sydney-sider who experienced it. You ask anyone - they may not know the date but when you remind them they say "yes - that's the one!". Now there have been other floods in this generation - but this particular event is astonishing given the record rainfall recorded in Sydney - 328mm in 24 hours in Sydney with regions in usually a much drier western Sydney exceeding the 250mm rainfall barrier.
Here is my recollection of the event:
I do recall my lift from school was late - very late in fact - I thought I had missed the lift. No matter which road he went through, the roads were impassible in the Toongabbie region. My brother on the other hand was 5 hours late arriving from the city by train. Although the rainfall during the day was very heavy, it was the constant drenching at night that had me awake finding it difficult to get to sleep. Not that I really cared. It was my first vivid major flood event having missed the 1978 major floods - I certainly was not going to miss the experience.
I do recall 4 consecutive days in late July being well above average - temperatures in the mid-20s followed by a very cold outbreak on the 25th July. Some regions in Sydney reported sleet with snow falling to low levels during the afternoon and evening. Two days later, I awoke to a severe frost. we had severe frosts that year but this one was exceptional - the rounded off temperature neared -minus 6 degrees Celcius making this the coldest morning in Sydney since the 1970 record cold temperature of -8.3C. By the way the maximum temperature warmed to 10C - well it is a 16C warming! It also rained which is why the temperatures remained low.
Not much seemed to occur until the 4th August when a thunderstorm occurred at Kurrajong with large hail. This was the beginning of the rainfall event. Rain continued on the 4th and became persistant. On the 5th August, the rain became heavy particularly during the day and evening. On the 6th August, besides some showers, the rain began to clear and the low pressure system that had 'bombed' (a term referring to the rapid development of a low pressure system) over eastern NSW retracted into the Tasman.
A tornado was also reported on the Central Coast on the 5th August probably close to the inner rim of the low pressure system. I suspect this may have been a waterspout making landfall. Another feature of this system was the strong to gale force winds though being inland, I did not experience these conditions. Tragically, the event claimed the lives of 4 people including two children swept away as the family tried to escape a car stalled in floodwaters. One thing reported in the media reiterated by others I know was the generosity of allowing strangers in their homes after being totally blocked off by floodwaters late at night.
Where were you on this day? Tell of your experiences of this event and how it affected you?