Maitland is known for floods, but it is prone to severe summer thunderstorms too, and the Maitland Mercury has always given such events substantial coverage.
During the nineteenth century detailed accounts of the nature of individual storms and the damage they wrought were standard fare in the paper.
Three storms, on 4 January 1861, 29 December 1873 and 6 March 1896, were particularly noteworthy for their ferocity and for the detail of the reporting that resulted.
The 1861 storm approached from the west. It brought powerful downbursts of wind and large hail, stones the size of pullets' eggs. As is often true with downbursts, the damage was uneven: some localities were hard hit but others largely escaped. Campbells Hill suffered badly, the western part of High St less so.
- Dimmocks, from small start to family dynasty
- Lady Nelson's journey of discovery up the Hunter
- The macabre world of phrenologist Archibald Hamilton
- Deep river port gave Maitland the edge
- Convict John Smith, one of the first settlers who made good
- Part 1: Molly Morgan's amazing journey
- Part 2: Molly goes from prisoner to wealthy land owner
- Lost rail link from Morpeth to East Maitland
- When rowing attracted huge crowds in Maitland
- The plan to move Maitland higher to beat floods once and for all
Eastern High St and East Maitland saw severe damage as did the farming areas of Fishery Creek, Louth Park, Oakhampton and Dunmore where a man was killed by a lightning bolt.
Literally thousands of window panes were smashed in houses, shops, churches and other buildings, mainly on their western and south-western sides.
Roofs were ripped off and ceilings collapsed from the weight of hail and rainwater. The ridge capping of the Court House was torn off.
On the farms fruit trees were stripped and vines, vegetables and corn crops destroyed. Pigs were killed by hailstones, one horse was stunned and another lost an eye.
The 1873 visitation came, as is common, at the end of a hot day on which the temperature exceeded 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38C).
Strong southerly winds and large, jagged hailstones, some as big as oranges, struck shortly after 4pm.
Most houses in West Maitland were in the storm's path and suffered damage with slate roofs cracked, window panes smashed and verandahs torn off.
Trees were felled and gardens damaged, peach and nectarine trees stripped of fruit by the hail (and some uprooted by wind). Vines were reduced to bare stalks.
In High St the Olympic Theatre was partially unroofed, iron being hurled long distances and damaging dwellings. East Maitland suffered damage to churches and a school.
Many rural areas including Bolwarra, Largs, Dunmore, Woodville, Wallalong and Millers Forest sustained damage to grain and fruit crops, and haystacks were blown away.
The Mercury concluded that "The District is now several thousands of pounds poorer than it was a few days ago."
The 1896 storm came from the south, bringing strong winds, hailstones more than 2 inches (5 centimetres) across in some places and intense rain more than an inch (25mm) in 10 minutes at the Telegraph Office in High St.
'Telegraph poles were downed, fences damaged and crops ruined. Houses, sheds and stables were unroofed and windows broken, and the contents of dwellings were damaged.
Louth Park and the Chinese market gardens next to the Showgrounds suffered badly.
There was flash flooding. Water ponded by the railway embankment entered nearby houses.
Maitland has experienced many events like these. But in the 1800s, most dwellings lacked robustness against the elements. Costly repairs were frequently needed.
Worst of all, recourse to insurance to recoup the damage was not generally available or affordable.