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Moruya floods – the real facts


A letter to the editor of the Moruya Examiner written by C.P.(Powell) Luck after the 1974 floods.

Sir, Please allow me space for some comments I would like to make in regards to rumours and press publications about comparisons of recent flooding of this district with the flood of 1925.

These publications are very misleading.

What happens at Bodalla, Coila or anywhere else has no bearing whatever to the Moruya district.

That higher rises were reported on other parts of the coast recently than in 1925 could well be.

I understand that the flood of ’25 was not serious in Bodalla, but the following year Bodalla suffered a big flood which did not have an effect on Moruya.

The disturbance of ’25 appeared to be confined to the Moruya-Deua areas with a spill over of lesser proportions to the Clyde River and Bodalla catchment areas.

If people contemplating building on flood prone sites are under the impression that the recent flood was a record in rise, they are on a collision course with disaster. The granting of building approvals means nothing.

It is doubtful if it is generally known that for every foot rise at Moruya Heads, there would be not less than a ten foot rise at Yarragee, the difference progressively increasing from the Heads.

When I speak of Yarragee I refer to Mr Ted Hunt’s property which I sold to him some 16 years ago. My observations were taken at Yarragee and Moruya.

I will now give a description of the ’25 flood.

Photo: The Moruya and District Historical Society

Previous to the main flood, several minor floods occurred in a period of six weeks and during this period it rained almost every day, with the river somewhat swollen more or less all that time.

In the late afternoon on the eve of the disaster the rain came in torrents and worsened through the night. By morning the upriver water started a rapid rise of 25 feet in one hour. The rain then eased somewhat and I hoped the worst was over, but late that afternoon a strong wind from the south sprang up, increasing during the night to a furious gale with almost continuous claps of thunder and rain, the like of which I had never seen before or since.

In one burst I registered six inches in 40 minutes.

The roar of the deluge on the roof, the howling gale, the crashes of thunder and the noise of the water tearing over the farm flats were unbelievable.

By daylight the river had risen a further 35 feet, a total rise of 60 feet with the flats under an average of 39 feet. This volume of water about half a mile wide was roaring over the flats at terrific speed, causing great waves to break on the hillside like a rough sea on the beach.

On the flat were about six red gums, the largest being about six feet in diameter. The two largest trees were still remaining that morning. I watched as one by one they keeled over and in a few minutes were bowled right over and were carried away like matchwood.

The rise held at the level for a short time, then receded and at nightfall portion of what was left of the flat was showing.

That day about noon I saddled up the horse and rode to town for some provisions which were scarce in Moruya as well as on the farm. By that time the level had dropped a lot in town, but was still knee deep on the footpath at the Commercial Hotel (now the Monarch).

“The Examiner’ of 21st instant is to hand and I would draw attention to three pictures on page 11, stating that the pictures were taken at the peak of the ’25 flood.

This is incorrect. I saw the flood at this stage and there were flood marks everywhere from 2 to 3 feet above that photographed. The level was to the top of the bar counter of the Commercial at its peak.

The next day we knew the worst. Our farm was ruined. Up to six feet of sand was left on the best part of the flat and the rest was torn about and had the appearance of a rocky sea shore.

It took years to level and get it partly productive again. There was no practical way to remove the sand.

No other flood breaking the banks at Yaragee caused property damage.

All farmers suffered heavy losses in various ways and not only farmers suffered.

All other floods in my time of 74 years were minor by comparison.

It is important to mention that 50 years prior the ’25 flood there occurred another such flood of shorter duration, with the rise levels about the same, according to a member of the family who saw both the 1875 and 1925 floods.

In conclusion, may I add that should a rapid rise occur of the kind previously mentioned which would be about 12 feet in one hour at Moruya and catch the residents of the Moruya Caravan Park unawares at night they would be in grave danger.

These disasters have happened before. They could happen again. Who knows?

Yours etc

C.P. Luck. The following extract from a newspaper report of Thursday, February 26, 1863, of a previous flood of enormous proportions.

ON Monday evening, the river and lagoon formed a junction, while the flat surrounding the eastern side of the town was also inundated, the water reaching to within a few feet of the post-office.

The house occupied by Mr Wright, the ferryman, was completely flooded during the night of Monday, but fortunately for the family, Mrs Constable, who has seen former floods on the Moruya, had on that evening insisted on their removing under her hospitable roof.  Some of our neighbours have met with very great loss, Mr W. T. Collett appearing to be the chief sufferer.

The river, so long confined within narrow limits by the steep ranges bordering its course, swept with an irresistible force over the open flats of Mungerarie, carrying the earth and tearing up the maize, destroying in a few moments the anxious toil of months.

We learn that on the Mungerarie estate the rise of the water was within six feet of the limits attained by the fatal flood of three years back, and that large portions of the land will remain under water for a lengthened period.  

Mr W. T. Collett estimates his own loss at £600, besides the very serious loss sustained by Mr. B. Collett, whose farm adjoins, and by others on the property.

On the upper portion of the Kiora property we learn that Mr. P. Jeffreys will be a sufferer to a great extent.

Mr. W. Jinnings, of Kiora, will also lose a portion of his potatoes, but will sustain a still greater loss by the great damage the maize has sustained by the violent gale.

Several to whom we have spoken complain of the same mishap.

On the Currajumba flat ... Messrs. Nickson, Luck and Crapp will be the chief losers, the latter, he informs us, to the extent of about 1000 bushels of corn and some four tons of potatoes.

The water here reached within three feet of the former great flood.  

At Yarragee, we regret to learn that Mr. John Luck is a very serious loser, and that Mr. Jacob Luck and Dr. Boot will to some extent be also losers.

From Mullenderree we learn that vast quantities of the crops will be lost, but until the fall of the water the exact amount cannot be ascertained. 

Mr. H. Clarke, of Bergalia, has lost about 100 rods of fencing, and Mr. Elliott, of Kiora, has lost a great portion of his crop, the torrent making a clean sweep over his farm.

Below the town the width of the channel allows a free escape, and little damage was done.

The steamer’s punt, indeed, drifted from her moorings opposite Mynora, but was recovered opposite Ellison’s Creek without having sustained any injury.

The flood did some slight injury to the farms at Mynora, in particular covering Mr. Caswell’s vineyard, the grapes in which are coated with a thin layer of mud, but not sufficient to injure the fruit.

Down in the neighbourhood of Newstead the flood reached to a much greater height than ever known on previous occasions, being backed up by the heavy gale and sea.

To show the violence of the storm, we may mention that three loose blocks of stone, weighing perhaps half a ton each, were driven fairly across the roadway of the embankment by the force of the sea.

The Numba, ketch, was obliged to remove from her moorings at the wharf to an anchorage in front of the Ship Inn, where she rode out the gale in safety.

Information reached the Police Magistrate yesterday that a man named Parsons had been drowned at Bodalla in the attempt to swim to his hut, on the partial subsidence of the flood.

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