Published: 10:10, 05 February 2003
THE full fury of the storm which had already devastated towns all along the east coast of Britain hit Herne Bay in the early hours of Sunday, February 1, 1953. Asphalt was torn from the Neptune Jetty, concrete slabs torn from the sea wall and 400 buildings flooded.
The devastation amazed residents, many of whom were completely unaware of the scale of the damage until the days that followed when the bill was estimated at £250,000.
A heavy gale had been building during the day on Saturday, January 31, and by 10pm policemen were patrolling the streets warning householders of the impending floods. Basements were stripped of their contents and children, invalids and sick people were taken to the safety of upper storeys.
A reporter for the Herne Bay Press wrote: "The scene on the sea front is one which almost baffles description.
"Immense waves rolling in, lashed by the North Westerly gale, struck the sea wall with the noise of heavy artillery and flung water scores of feet into the air.
"Caught by the wind, the spray dashed almost horizontally across the promenade, carrying with it pebbles which came almost with the force of bullets."
The only serious casualty in the town was Mrs Rocket, wife of photographer Mr A.T. Rocket. She cut her leg helping her husband save some of his equipment from the basement of Tower Studios in Central Parade and required stitches.
As the mop-up work began there was still a fear of further flooding and the realisation that the tragedy could have been much worse. The Herne Bay Press reported: "But for the timely warning there is very little doubt that many would have been trapped in the basements of houses with results too horrible to contemplate."
Teams were brought in from outside the area to help the clean-up, clearing drains and sewers. Mechanical grabs were used to move the huge amount of shingle washed up on the promenade, and 16 parties of men working in pairs cleared silt and started on the flooded homes.
Three Royal Air Force pre-driers were brought in to dry damp rooms and an organization was set up at Herne Hospital to help the drying of bedclothes.
In addition to a national disaster appeal, Herne Bay Council launched a local fund to help those in urgent need, and a lodging allowance was paid to those who took in friends and neighbours forced to abandon their homes.