HOME OF THE LADY DENMAN - Local history isn't always about the big story - the everyday story of life in the early development of the region can be a fascinating, entertaining and educational journey.

24 May 2018

Bridges washed away south of Nowra - 1936

The Shoalhaven climate has certainly changed, even in the 40 years I have been living here permanently, the area had dried out considerably. The Shoalhaven was once known to Sydney siders as " The place where the weather came from." because of the amount of rain that came from the south.

Following is an account of the flood damage inflicted on the district between Nowra and Wandandian.

March 1936 The Nowra district was in the grip of torrential rain, wide areas of the district were subject to flooding.  At least three bridges had been washed away on the highway making
the Princess Highway south of Nowra impassable.

Holidaymakers and locals coming from Sussex Inlet trying to travel north found
themselves marooned because the bridge at Cow Creek had been washed away.
Guesthouses in the area were full of stranded motorists returning to Sydney.

Many motorists, some with women and young children had to walk about 5 miles to the nearest shelter
at Wandandian. Temporary creek crossings were made by felling trees and making bridges of the logs.


A recently completed concrete bridge at Wandandian suffered major structural damage when concrete pillars moved when the surrounding ground was washed away causing the bridge to sag about 4 feet

Mr Alfred Brooks of Strathfield via phone from Wandandian said.  - "Crossing the bridge scared more than one of us, we crossed on foot, we thought the whole structure was going at any moment." It was feared the Wandandian Bridge would have to be blown up and entirely rebuilt.

The many "service cars" which ran daily trips for travellers between Nowra, Jervis Bay, Milton and Ulladulla, were detained at Milton and Nowra.

Flooding affected other areas as well, Port Kembla reported widespread flooding. seven inches fell within a few hours, houses had a foot of muddy water through them. Port Kembla and the commercial Hotel were inundated with water, the later having 15 ft of water pumped from its cellars.

Lake Illawarra was 4 feet above normal level and was still rising rapidly as rain continued to fall.
The Shoalhaven River rose swiftly and the farmers in low-lying areas were forced to move stock to higher ground.

These sort of incidents were fairly common occurrences,  bridges, creeks and roads had many times in the past been badly affected by flooding rains and rapidly rising rivers, fortunately, the infrastructure now much better able to cope with the flooding rain. And it happens a lot less frequently than in the past.


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