70th anniversary stories from destructive Macleay Valley flood

In August 1949 a record flood hit the Macleay Valley, killing six people, 15,000 head of livestock and destroying 52 buildings.

“It was like the sea,” says Kempsey resident Fay Wicks. “Great waves, up as high as the electricity poles.”

Fay is one of eleven residents who have recorded interviews about the 1949 flood, which remains one of the worst on record for the Macleay Valley. The interviews include an array of fascinating and vivid stories about lucky escapes, rescues, massive damage, preparation, warnings, and clean ups.

“When you come home[sic] there were cows dead in the house, there were dead cows on the verandah,” says Peter Scott.

The videos will be formally launched at NSW SES Kempsey Unit Headquarters today at 10:30am. They will be used in NSW SES and Council flood education programs to explain some of the Valley’s current flood risks and the need for the community to be prepared for future floods.

NSW SES Kempsey Unit Media Officer Greg Gill says that the 70th Anniversary is a reminder for Macleay residents to be ready for the next flood.

“We live in a country with extreme variations in weather and the current big dry may be broken with a big rain event,” says Mr Gill.

A commemorative service will be held on Tuesday 27th August at 10:30am at the flood marker in the Clyde Street Mall to remember the six people who died in the 1949 flood.

“The Macleay Valley has a long and proud history of people working together in preparing for, responding to and recovering from floods,” says Kempsey Shire Council mayor, Liz Campbell.

“The anniversary is a reminder that we need to be a community that is prepared for a number of severe weather threats be they fires, floods or storms.”

Kempsey resident Peter Scott has solid advice for anyone who has recently moved to the area.

“Get out of there as quickly as you can. Don’t muck around, because the water can come so fast.”

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