by Kerrie Paterson
Around the Hunter Valley, you only have to mention the words ‘Pasha Bulker’ and people are thrown instantly back to a weekend in June 2007. On June 8, the area was hit by a massive storm. A 225m-long bulk carrier, the MV Pasha Bulker, waiting off Newcastle to be loaded with coal, broke free of its moorings and ran ashore on Nobbys Beach.
After almost a month, and three attempts at floating it off its new home, it was finally towed away but not before it became part of the area’s folklore.
But the ship’s grounding was only one part of the story. The east coast low battered the Hunter and Central Coast for 36 hours and led to widespread flooding, mass evacuations and a death toll of 10.
The storm has been known since as the ‘Pasha Bulker storm’, and storms of any ferocity are automatically compared to it. Last year we had another east coast low hit us and it was like the Pasha Bulker storm all over again (except without the ship being grounded).
While our house was safe in both instances, it was quite a scary experience – the wind and rain were relentless, we lost power for several days and at times I thought the windows would pop from the strength of the storm.
When I began writing Return to Jacaranda Avenue (due for release on May 15), the experience of the Pasha Bulker storm came to mind for the climactic scene. My heroine, pastry chef Polly, is forced out into the storm and comes face to face with the villain against a backdrop of floodwater and gale-force winds. But why would any sane person leave their house during a storm like that when everyone is told to stay off the roads?
What if she thought her daughter, Gemma, was in danger? Is there anything stronger than a mother’s love?
Only the love of her hero, Matt, who goes to her rescue.
The weather would ease soon, surely. She had to find Gemma.
Eyes glued to the road ahead, barely daring to blink, she exited the roundabout onto the road leading out of town. The paddocks on either side of the road looked more like swimming pools, covered with sheets of water. Dairy cows huddled together on whatever high patches of ground they could find.
Metres before the bridge, the road dipped a little in front of her. Water covered the dip but she could see across to the other side. Couldn’t she? Wipers on high, demister blowing hot air onto the windscreen, she flicked her headlights to high beam and peered through the torrents of rain at the road ahead. Yes, that was the centreline she could see—maybe ten metres away?
Should she risk trying to drive through the water?
She had no choice.
She had to get to Gemma.
A pastry chef returns to her roots and discovers that the flavour of first love improves with age.