When terrifying storm brought scenes of devastation to the streets of East Lancs (From Lancashire Telegraph)
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When terrifying storm brought scenes of devastation to the streets of East Lancs
FLOOD TERROR: Cars plough through the flood waters in the centre of Rawtenstall in 1964, while right, a car is stranded by the rising floodwater in Sycamore Avenue, Burnley
IT was a ‘Wakes’ weekend in July, 1964, when a terrifying storm brought floodwaters and scenes of devastation to East Lancashire.
Torrential rain — an inch and half came down in just 15 minutes, accompanied by thunder and lightning and hailstones as big as moth balls — caused buildings to collapse, power cuts and widespread flooding.
Many people were enjoying their summer holidays and returned home to find muddy water lapping their living rooms.
It brought terror to Rising Bridge, where live electricity cables snapped and gas was seeping through the streets.
The moorland village was marooned and the confectioner’s shop owned by Will Parker and the neighbouring house in Blackburn Road collapsed.
Sydney Hatton, who lived in one of the cottages was upstairs when he heard a sudden creaking and decided to get out.
“No sooner had I stepped through the door when the whole house crumbled and disappeared into the river below.”
Chief Inspector Peter Jackson, who led a team of 20 policemen at the scene, told the Lancashire Evening Telegraph: “We are treating the situation with every emergency.
“Entire streets have been evacuated into nearby caravans, gas is leaking all over the place and houses and streets are live with leaking electricity.
At Darwen residents in Cross Street were cut off, and a house in the Sough area collapsed.
Blackburn Road was thigh deep in water and for more than 100 yards, in front of the Savoy garage, resembled more of a lake, while the market hall looked more like a swimming pool.
In Crawshawbooth, poultry cabins and sheds sailed down the river and in Burnley, the steep Manchester Road became a raging torrent and flooded the town centre with two feet of water, carrying with it oil drums and road works equipment from higher up the hill.
Residents in Thomas Street, Nelson, had to retreat to their bedrooms as furniture floated around the ground floors and people were seen neck high in water, battling to get out of their homes.
Floodwater from the moorland seeped through the mile-long Sough tunnel at Darwen and brought part of it crashing down on to the track.
Trains were cancelled throughout the area and communications between signal boxes were also put out of action.
A gable wall of Higham’s mill in Victoria Street, Accrington, collapsed and tons of blanketing material was swept away down the side streets and in Earby a van swept away by the flood water crashed into a television store and sets swirled away in the rising tide.
Blackburn formed an emergency flood committee to deal with the havoc caused by the worst storms seen for decades.
The worst hit area was Waterfall where water burst through the front doors and residents found themselves waist deep.
There was another bad storm in 1968, when a ‘tidal wave’ hit the centre of Bacup, which stood under water for some days and the main road to Todmorden was closed by landslides.
At the New Inn and the Rose and Crown in Todmorden business carried on, with customers still enjoying a pint as water lapped around their knees.