Peter Manuel was clinging to a tree and struggling to breathe when he said goodbye to his son.
Flood water was raging around him and waves were hitting him in the face. He saw lightning striking the water in the distance. He thought “this is it”.
Cold, soaked to the core, and exhausted, Mr Manuel told his son to leave him and save his own life.
But 15-year-old Michael wouldn’t budge.
The pair had rushed down to the river bank to round up a herd of cattle as the Williams River broke its banks on April 21 during the super storm.
They were trying to drive them three kilometres to higher ground, but the frantic cattle wouldn’t listen to their commands.
When their tractor broke down they were forced to swim themselves and the cattle home. They made it over half way and took refuge in a line of young trees. The fences and gates around them were already under water.
“I told him to keep going and I’d stay here, but he wouldn’t leave me,” Mr Manuel said.
Michael remembers focusing on the dry hill in front of them and pulling his father along as he swam.
“I wasn’t leaving him there,” he said.
“I would have drowned if he wasn’t such a strong swimmer, he saved my life,” Mr Manuel added.
It’s been almost a year since the traumatic events unfolded, yet the scars are still very real.
Mr Manuel was on a motorbike driving cattle in a storm earlier this month when he suddenly couldn’t breathe and thought he was going to drown.
“You think this sort of thing doesn’t affect you,” he said.
“Somewhere in my subconscious it’s still there. I was right back there.
“I don’t know if i’ll ever get over it.”
The super storm left four people dead, more than $800 million worth of damage across the Hunter and hundreds of lives turned upside down.
Some people are yet to return to their homes, while others have moved back in over the past few weeks.