IN DEPTH

Storm season is almost here - relive the facts and figures of the 2015 April super storm | photos, video

Remembering the super storm as SES warns storm season is almost upon us

With the countdown to Storm Season underway, NSW State Emergency Service (NSW SES) has one question for its communities - will you be prepared when it arrives?

The Bureau of Meteorology has advised this Storm Season - which traditionally runs from October to March each year - is likely to bring similar conditions to what was experienced last season.

NSW SES Commissioner Carlene York said this means we could once again experience severe weather, including heavy rain and riverine and flash flooding.

In other news:

"During the previous Storm Season, we experienced major floods right across the state," Commissioner York said.

"In fact, it wasn't long ago our volunteers responded to the major flooding event that overwhelmed communities across the Hawkesbury-Nepean, Hunter and Mid North Coast.

"That event alone saw us respond to more than 14,000 requests for assistance, including more than 1,000 flood rescues.

Commissioner York stressed it is because of events such as these that communities need to take preparing for storms and floods seriously.

"The more you can do now to prepare, the less likely you'll end up needing emergency assistance from our volunteers when these weather events hit," Commissioner York said.

"Our website has everything you could possibly need to learn about your risk of floods and the dangers they bring.

"It also highlights the simple, yet effective, things you can do ahead of time.

"From preparing an emergency evacuation kit, making sure your gutters and downpipes are clear, to planning for your animals, you can find all this information and more via ses.nsw.gov.au," she said.

For more information about this upcoming Storm Season, visit ses.nsw.gov.au. To find out the latest weather warnings and forecasts, visit the Bureau of Meteorology's website bom.gov.au.

For emergency assistance in storms or floods, call 132 500. If the situation is life-threatening, call Triple Zero (000) immediately.

Remember the 2015 super storm?

It was the most brutal attack on the Hunter in more than half a century, and a year after the April super storm lashed the region many of its survivors are still picking up the pieces.

It took less than 24 hours for the 135 kilometre winds and record torrential rainfall to leave a trail of destruction worth more than $800 million.

Tens of thousands of trees fell, more than 450 roads were closed during the storm and over 23 bridges on those roads were damaged.

There was $30 million worth of damage to council roads and $10 million to state roads, government figures show.

Entire lives were left strewn across the landscape with debris and more than 115,000 animals that perished.

More than 170 people had to be swept to safety by emergency services and tragically four people lost their lives.

The NSW State Emergency Service had to bring in resources from across the country after it received close to 22,000 calls for help. It was the largest response in the organisation's 60-year history.

Fallen power lines across the region left 370,000 homes, businesses and hospitals in the dark and telecommunications were initially scarce, with more than 100,000 landlines out of action and over 24,000 complaints about a range of mobile and internet services.

Some of the Ausgrid crew who formed a plan to attack the widespread power outage caused by the super storm.

Some of the Ausgrid crew who formed a plan to attack the widespread power outage caused by the super storm.

More than 5000 customers were left without water during the storm and 50,000 bottles of water were delivered to get them through until the service was restored.

As the storm passed the extent of the damage was realised. More than 250 homes suffered damage and over 150 people were left homeless across the region.

Natural disaster declarations were made in 22 local government areas across the Hunter and a range of financial support was released.

More than 100,000 tonnes of green waste was taken to the tip, which could have filled 40 Olympic swimming pools, and the cost to remove debris from government assets alone was estimated at $20 million.

The agriculture industry alone copped a $120 million damage bill, with $65 million of it attributed to the loss of 7300 kilometres of fencing. Thats a distance almost equivalent to a return trip between Sydney and Perth.

The Hunters tourism industry also suffered, with an estimated loss of $110 million.

Hover over the image below and CLICK THE RED DOTS for more insight into life before, during and after the superstorm

THE DELUGE

The storm brought record rainfall that some parts of the Hunter have not seen in more than a century.

Branxton received 454.8 millimetres, which is the highest April rainfall the town has had since 1863, and Nelson Bay had 492 millimetres the largest April deluge since 1881.

Tocal recorded 528.5 millimetres a record that has not been seen for more than 50 years - and 171 millimetres of it fell between April 21 and 22.

The township of Clarence Town, 27 kilometres north of Nelsons Plains, had 451.8 millimetres, which is the highest April rainfall since 1946, and 139.6 millimetres more rain than the town received in February 1955. Nearby in Seaham, 152 millimetres fell between April 21 and 22.

In Raymond Terrace 431.6 millimetres of rain fell the highest April monthly rainfall since 1931, and 140.8 millimetres more rain than the town received in February 1955.

Woodville copped 602.4 millimetres in April, and Paterson received 547.6 millimetres.

The storm dumped more than 1.2 metres of rain across Dungog, Maitland and Woodville in 24 hours and turned roads into raging rivers and suburbs into an ocean. Dungog was battered with 348 millimetres, Maitland copped 435 mm and Woodville had a whopping 509 millimetres.

During the heaviest deluge between 100 and 150 millimetres of rain fell within an hour.

Rain dramatically eased in May, but there was still a decent deluge in a few places that were affected in the April storm.

Clarence Town had 131 millimetres, Tocal had another 103 millimetres, Maitland had 80 millimetres, and Paterson had 35 millimetres.

DUNGOG

Dungog was the first to bore the brunt of the storm when the Myall Creek and Williams river catchments flooded and inundated low-lying areas late on April 20.

Via NBN News

Before dawn on April 21 the surge of water rose at a frightening pace.

Parts of Dowling, Brown and Hooke streets were left submerged and tragically Colin Webb, 79, Brian Wilson, 72, and Robin Macdonald, 70 died in their homes.

The force of the water lifted four houses from their foundations at the northern end of Dowling Street and smashed them apart.

The aftermath of the early morning April 21 flash flood. Pic: Janelle O'Neill

The aftermath of the early morning April 21 flash flood. Pic: Janelle O'Neill

Footage of one of them moving with the torrent went viral on social media, showcasing the extent of the devastation to the world.

Eighty-nine houses in the town suffered damage.

Seventeen Alison Court residents were forced to live in temporary accommodation until earlier this year when some of them moved back in.

The water quickly moved downstream, isolating townships and catching farmers off guard, who usually have a day to move stock to higher ground.

Meanwhile, the Paterson River and the Hunter River were rising and flooding low-lying areas.

Here's how Dungog's looking forward 12 months on from that fateful day. Just click the photo

TORRYBURN

Part of the photographic exhibition celebrating Dungog's future. Click on the pic for more

Part of the photographic exhibition celebrating Dungog's future. Click on the pic for more

The township suffered the worst transport disaster in the region when the flooded Allyn River ripped the Torryburn Bridge from its foundations and washed it down stream.

Residents will never forget the wall of water that surged downstream, flooding low-lying properties and leaving up to a metre of water in nearby homes.

A group of residents built a flying fox pulley-system with a milk crate to ferry over supplies and a small dingy to safely reach the outside world.

It stayed in place until a temporary pedestrian bridge was built. Dungog council and the NSW Roads and Maritime Services created a detour track of Clements Road, which was opened in June.

The flying fox set up to deliver supplies to the cut off village of Torryburn after its bridge was washed away by floods. Picture: Simone De Peak

The flying fox set up to deliver supplies to the cut off village of Torryburn after its bridge was washed away by floods. Picture: Simone De Peak

It allowed residents, and the towns dairy farm and horse stud, to travel out of the town on a road for the first time.

It was a triumphant moment for dairy farming brothers Joe and Lewis Brennan, who were able to get milk out for the first time in six weeks.

Work began on building a new concrete bridge last year.

Torryburn dairy farming brothers Lew and Joe Brennan at their family dairy which was isolated due to the missing Torryburn Bridge as a result of the April storm.

Torryburn dairy farming brothers Lew and Joe Brennan at their family dairy which was isolated due to the missing Torryburn Bridge as a result of the April storm.

Residents Chrystal and Peter Griffiths were among the residents to test out the new bridge as soon as it was finished.

The miniature pig breeders have had a tough year using the lengthy detour road to town to take their piglets to the vet.

The structure was opened in March, signalling the return to normality almost a year after the disaster struck.

Torryburn residents Chrystal and Peter Griffiths LOVE the new bridge.

Torryburn residents Chrystal and Peter Griffiths LOVE the new bridge.

MAITLAND

Suburbs across the city quickly transformed into raging torrents as storm water drains struggled to cope with the unprecedented deluge.

Some low-lying levels around Maitland CBD were inundated, while parts of other suburbs, including East Maitland, resembled an ocean within 24 hours.

In Bourke Street, central Maitland, the Lloyd-Jones family were forced to grab what they could and evacuate with their beloved dog Vada. They moved back in this week and are confident they will be high and dry if another super storm comes their way.

More than 4000 sandbags were used to protect the flood gates at Maitland railway station.

Just how it was - on April 21, 2015. Click the photo for more images from the day.

Just how it was - on April 21, 2015. Click the photo for more images from the day.

Gillieston Heights was soon isolated, with road access blocked at Testers Hollow and on Cessnock Road near the roundabout at Maitland railway station.

Tragically Anne Jarmain, a beloved 86-year-old great-grandmother, died when her car was swept off Cessnock Road into rising floodwater on April 22.

She had ducked into Maitland to buy milk before Gillieston Heights became isolated and was on her way home when the accident unfolded.

Anne Jarmain

Anne Jarmain

Hunter Close in Lochinvar resembled a flooded causeway with every house in the street impacted by a nearby flooded creek.

Stacy Hipwell, who is vision impaired, was left hitting a stick against the rising water from the front door, hoping someone would see it and rescue her. Firefighters came to her aid and now Stacy and her mum Kay are looking forward to moving into their new home later this year.

The city came to a crawl when the New England Highway at Maitland became flooded and motorists had to divert through the CBD, or use the Hunter Expressway.

Surrounding farm communities were also quickly inundated. Many farmers were caught off guard and forced to bring stock and equipment to higher ground at the height of the storm. No doubt there are countless tales of bravery and courage, but Nelsons Plains farmer Peter Manual is one man who stared death in the face on April 21.

Kay and Stacy Hipwell inspect the progress of their new homes at Lochinvar. Pic: Perry Duffin

Kay and Stacy Hipwell inspect the progress of their new homes at Lochinvar. Pic: Perry Duffin

CESSNOCK

Cessnock's main street turned into a river as flash flooding hit the city and surrounding areas.

Nelsons Plains farmer Peter Manuel and his son Michael, who saved him from raging flood water during the 2015 April super storm. Pic: Max Mason-Hubers

Nelsons Plains farmer Peter Manuel and his son Michael, who saved him from raging flood water during the 2015 April super storm. Pic: Max Mason-Hubers

Low-lying homes in south Cessnock, Abermain and Weston were also inundated with flood water, just eight years since they endured a lengthy clean up courtesy of the 2007 Pasha Bulker storm.

Testers Hollow, a major thoroughfare to the Hunter Expressway, was also inundated leaving Gillieston Heights isolated. It was blocked again during the 2016 January floods, prompting Fairfax Media mastheads in the Hunter to launch a Raise the Road campaign. Flooding on the stretch has been an issue for 90 years.

There were more than 200 calls for help and 14 people were rescued.

The Cessnock District Rescue Squad was rushed off its feet from the early hours of April 21 as it responded to calls between Buchanan and Ellalong.

Testers Hollow. Pic: Sage Swinton.

Testers Hollow. Pic: Sage Swinton.

Now, find out how Cessnock City residents were faring, one year since the April super storm. CLICK HERE

AGRICULTURE INDUSTRY LOSSES

A tree that fell in Deakin Street, Kurri Kurri. Picture: Sage Swinton.

A tree that fell in Deakin Street, Kurri Kurri. Picture: Sage Swinton.

The agriculture industry copped an estimated $120 million worth of damage in the storm, which is $3.8 million more than its worth to the Hunter economy each year, Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows.

This figure included damage to pastures, farm machinery and infrastructure, as well as livestock losses.

More than $65 million of it was the cost of 7300 kilometres of fencing lost a distance almost equivalent to a return trip between Sydney and Perth.

The Hunter Local Land Service and NSW Department of Primary Industries swung into action to assess the damage.

The state government unlocked funding to put a hay helicopter in the air, which carried fodder to stranded stock around Seaham, Nelsons Plains, Millers Forest, Woodberry, Gillieston Heights, Telarah and Woodville.

Senior biosecurity officer Luke Booth, his colleague Ross Garland and Aerologistics pilot, known only as BJ, made the project possible.

The hay helicopter made more than 40 trips over five days and ensured 468 cattle, 114 horses, 12 camels and seven goats survived the flood.

The hay helicopter preparing to take off from Tocal College.

The hay helicopter preparing to take off from Tocal College.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries damage assessment found the beef cattle industry was hit hardest with $17.4 million in damage.

The dairy industry copped a $5.3 million loss, oyster farmers suffered a $6.2 million loss, crop farmers are $5 million out of pocket, the poultry and turf industries each lost $2.7 million, and the commercial fishing industry lost $300,000.

One thousand beef cattle, 42 dairy cattle, 37 horses and 114,000 poultry perished during the storm, or in the aftermath.

Seven thousand hectares of farmland was still under water after five days, and 5000 hectares had water lingering on it for up to five weeks.

More than 10,600 hectares of sown pastures were damaged, and 4000 hectares of lucerne crops were either lost or damaged.

NSW Premier Mike Baird visited Woodville dairy farmers David and Tony Vollmer in June to announce category c funding for the region, which gave eligible farmers access to grants worth up to $15,000.

This money allowed primary producers to buy feed and repair damage caused by the storm.

Milk production at the Vollmer brothers 320-strong dairy dropped from 8000 litres a day to 7000 after the super storm ruined most of their grazing pastures.

Retired army brigadier Darren Naumann toured a range of affected farmers to give the state government an accurate picture of the damage on farms.

Retired army brigadier Darren Naumann, a farmer's son, on a tour of the Vollmer's dairy farm at Woodville.

Retired army brigadier Darren Naumann, a farmer's son, on a tour of the Vollmer's dairy farm at Woodville.

This story Remembering the super storm as SES warns storm season is almost upon us first appeared on The Maitland Mercury.