As the muddy-brown water released its grip on Lismore following the flood devastation of the area, it left behind a thick brown sludge that covered every square-inch - both indoors and out. When the owners of Lismore Motorcycles, Garry and Kelly Lee, put out a call for assistance, a team of big-hearted volunteers descended on the dealership to make sure the dealership was back on its feet as quickly as possible.
The recent floods that ravaged regions of northern NSW and southern Queensland made news headlines across the country and around the world. However, it's when the water subsides - and the news cameras turn to the next developing story - that the hard work begins. This is when the impact of a natural disaster is really felt.
The Lismore floods were not the first time Garry and his dedicated team has stared down rising water, but the severity of the 2022 event shocked even the long-term locals.
"That was far beyond any flood we have ever seen in Lismore," Garry said recounting the day a torrent of water engulfed his store and the city. "We chose this location for Lismore Motorcycles many years ago because previous flooding had only ever reached the front door."
With more than 30 years of local flood experience to call on Garry felt he and his team were prepared for whatever mother nature threw at them. "We thought we were ready, but nothing can make a difference when an inland tidal wave crashes through town, takes out your business, and then climbs six feet above any flood in recorded Lismore history," he said.
The Lismore Motorcycles Facebook page provided some insight into how fast the situation unfolded. On 27 February, Garry posted "Let's hope we do not have water frontage again," referring to a previous flood that reached the store's front door. Within 24 hours the only thing visible from the circling news helicopters was the roof of the store.
"We went under big time, like many others," Garry posted on 1 March. "Six feet of water came in so fast that we had little time to move our stock."
The flood waters peaked at a staggering 14.4m, 2.0m higher than any levels previously recorded.
In the following days, as the flood water and news crews departed Lismore, an army of dedicated volunteers descended on the North-eastern NSW city. For Garry and his team, this assistance came in the shape of employees, friends and strangers. Also prepared to get their hands dirty was a group of Yamaha staff, travelling from as far away as Brisbane and Sydney to lend a hand.
What the volunteers discovered was that the images on television did not truly capture the damage flood waters can inflict. “At its height, the flood waters were lapping at the ceiling,” said Kamryn Williams from Yamaha Motor Australia. “By the time it receded, everything was coated in two centimetres of slippery brown silt. Everything was either destroyed or needing serious attention - nothing escaped. At first it appeared to be an impossible task.” With Garry and his team working tirelessly around the clock, Lismore Motorcycles reopened for business just three weeks after the dealership was submerged to its roofline.
Counting the cost of the flood, both personally and to his business, Garry Lee reaffirmed his commitment to Lismore Motorcycles, his staff and the continued support of the local motorcycle community.
"Both Kelly and I were overwhelmed by the selfless efforts of our staff, friends as well as people that we hardly know, and Yamaha staff to get our store up and running again," he said. "We are humbled by the support provided.”