Amazing that Townsville recently suffered what was classified as a one in 2000 years flood. At present it seems unlikely that Tamworth is going to suffer a flood any time soon, as we suffer our ongoing drought conditions. But it hasn't always been so. Our first significant flood recorded by early white settlers was in 1840, Tamworth having a population of only around 400 at the time.
Later serious flooding occurred in 1864, 1908 and 1910, while of course many long-time older residents will have less than fond memories of the 1955 flood. Subsequent steps in flood mitigation lessened the impact on the town of later 1984 and 2000 events. But of all these inundations, perhaps the 1910 flood caused the most devastation, with the protective eastern levy bank not being started until the 1930's. Following on from the considerable flood two years earlier, a massive 11 inches of rainfall (270mm) fell between Monday, January 10 and Friday, January 14. An alarm was signalled with an SOS signal fired from Nemingha early on the Saturday morning, advising that the Cockburn River floodwaters were adding to the height of the Peel River.
Soon after the Peel broke its banks near Prince of Wales Oval (now the Velodrome), devastating the "China Town" settlement in Peel Street between Hill and Roderick Streets. Streams raced down the two parallel thoroughfares - Peel Street and Lower Street (now Kable Avenue), with by that time the water level over the Paradise Bridge decking. Water at the corner of Peel and Bourke Streets was 2.7m deep.
Many people had to be rescued from the floodwaters, and from their buildings. Included in these rescues was that of a Mr Hassan, who had tried to rescue records from his shop at 373 Peel Street. However, as the local press recorded - "The current in Peel Street swept the horse and sulky downstream and the driver was clinging desperately to the seat. When near the Central Hotel, the sulky crashed against a tree, and momentarily Hassan and the horse disappeared. When Hassan reached the surface he tried to grab a rope which had been flung to him from the balcony, but his foot was caught in the horse's harness and a rescue could not be made."
Eventually Hassan, horse and sulky were washed away in the current, but fortunately Hassan was rescued near the Viaduct and the remains of the sulky were found in a tree at Wallamore.
Eventually Hassan, horse and sulky were washed away in the current, but fortunately Hassan was rescued near the Viaduct and the remains of the sulky were found in a tree at Wallamore. After he had arrived home and was having a bath, a policeman arrived at the front door to advise Mrs Hassan that her husband had been drowned!
The 1910 flood caused great economic and social damage to the town, especially coming only two years after the previous flood. The Mitchell/Gorman 1849 Town Plan proved to be right in having Marius Street as the main street, which would have been well out of flood level. The recent increased capacity of Chaffey Dam, plus levy-bank extension, could now make a catastrophic Tamworth flood a little less likely, but like Townsville - a 2000 year flood - who knows! Probably the furthest thing from our mind at this stage.