“Two incredible, beaming women arrived at my door with hot food. "

Published on 10 November 2021

Blackwood - Mary Water's house_3.jpg

Her town spent six days without power, but it was the strength of the community that kept Mary Waters, 76, going through the difficulty of the June storm.

“I just keep crying. I just look at it all and burst out crying. Because one of the things that people should know, it’s not just trees that have come down. It’s our oldest trees, and that for us is heartbreaking.

“They’re the grandmothers and grandfathers and parents of the smaller trees that are coming through.”

Mary has lived at her Blackwood property for 23 years. Her mudbrick home had four huge trees come down over the driveway, blocking her exit and very nearly crushing her bedroom.

“What came down on this property was my oldest trees. Look at all of them sitting out the front there at the path, well that’s nothing now.

 “If you can imagine that ten times worse, three, four massive trees, which I don’t intend to move. We’ve got to make it a bit safer, but it’s just going to be a memorial to that storm in my garden, and for the animals. Because so many animals lived around that area near those trees.”

Like many residents, Mary didn’t have any idea of the full extent of the storm until the next morning.

“I didn’t really experience it that bad on the actual night. I knew it was gusting but I’ve lived here for 20 odd years and I can assure you I’ve got used to experiencing a lot of things here, including bad weather. I knew when I went to bed it was gusting but I had no idea what was going on because I live in a valley.”

Mary describes the worst part of the storm to be losing power for such an extended period of time.

“It went off again the other night and I realised how much I had been affected by the storm, in fact it threw me into the same headspace and I just thought ‘I’m not going through that again’.”

After 23 years of wild weather during the winter months, Mary keeps an emergency kit close by, as well as batteries, a radio, torches, and a landline phone. All this preparation meant nothing in the June storm however.

“The next day all was useless because we had no phone line. And I think that threw us, as a community, into a space that many of us, especially older residents, hadn’t known before. I have never known the telephone line to go down like that for four days. My children were just beside themselves because they hadn’t heard from me. “

Despite no fridge, no internet, no lights and no phone, Mary was able to get news of the storm’s impact as well as a warm meal thanks to her wonderful Blackwood community. 

“How I heard of it [the storm] was because two incredible, beaming women arrived with hot food.

“A few of the community had got together, up at the post office which tends to be our central meeting place, and said ‘who is vulnerable, who do we know that we’ve got to go and check on’. And that’s where I came into it.”

“It was amazing. With them came news of Blackwood, news of the storm. They asked ‘what would you like us to do, would you like us to phone your family’, and that was amazing. About four days in, we’re all getting a bit sick of it, but the community kept arriving at my doorstep. “

The community spirit extended to the clean-up once the weather had passed too.

“The SES cut a path out but there was so much leftover. So who’s cleaned it? Neighbours, family, my daughter, friends.”

Blackwood spent about six days sans electricity, however upon hearing that Mary was alone with no power, a local decided to do something about it, four days post-storm.

“Next thing I know, there’s a generator coming through. It was just a little one but from that, I could get the modem up, get the iPad going and have communications. It was luxury.”

The biggest lesson the storm brought with it for Mary was one of togetherness, after a lifetime of being independent and self-sufficient.

“No man is an island; we need each other, and we’ve got to know we need each other.”

Blackwood - Mary Water's house_2.jpg 



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