Victoria’s water sector was well-prepared for extreme weather over weekend

Posted 4 December 2017

Extreme weather
Over the past weekend, Melbourne and other parts of Victoria were subject to extreme weather, with torrential downpours averaging at more than 200mm. Many areas within the state saw flash floods over three days, with some even forcing people from their homes.
The Age reported that this marked the heaviest day of December rainfall for Melbourne in 25 years, with more than 43mm of rain falling on the city over Saturday and Sunday morning.
In addition, it recorded more than 66mm between Friday and Sunday, beating its entire December average within the first three days of the month. 
"It was certainly a wet day out in the eastern suburbs, with rainfall over the last couple of days in excess of 100 millimetres with lots of flash flooding and rises in river systems," Senior Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Kevin Parkin said.
Victoria’s State Government Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Water & Catchments Group Sector Resilience Senior Manager Siraj Perera said the state’s water corporations were well prepared for the storms, with the water sector undertaking the necessary planning and preparation activities as soon as they heard the forecasts from the Bureau of Meteorology.
“Their emergency response plans have been regularly exercised as a matter of good practice. They had rosters for their maintenance crews and other people that operated their incident control centres,” he said.
“For those operating dams, they had trained operators and well-rehearsed operating manuals, procedures and protocols.”
He also mentioned that with heavy rainfall, sewer maintenance crews were well prepared and on call.
“Sewers are designed to overflow if the load gets too much. When sewer spills occur, they have to make sure that sampling and testing is done in creeks and rivers, work with the EPA and put out appropriate community messaging,” he said.
According to Perera, there was nothing “out of the blue” from the floods than what was expected.
Authorities claimed on Sunday that the worst of the storms were over, but said the focus has shifted to the impact of the rainfall on other areas as it moves further downstream.
Perera said the water sector is now moving on from the response stage to the recovery stage, which entails assessing assets to make sure there isn’t any damage done and if so, what repair work is required.
He added that events like these help prepare the state for similar occurrences in the future.
“A debrief at the end of it will see them get together and talk about what worked best, what lessons were learnt and what areas needed improvements,” he said.
Victorian Farmers Federation President David Jochinke told the Herald Sun that the impact of the storms on crops would be determined in the next few days.

"What we need is a lot of wind and dry conditions to prevent more damage occurring from disease," he said

Residents in some areas are continuing to sandbag their properties, with authorities warning of rising water levels in the Ovens River at Wangaratta, Seven Creeks south of Euroa and the Yarra River flowing into Melbourne.

Federal Minister for Justice Michael Keenan and Victorian Minister for Emergency Services James Merlino have announced a disaster assistance package for Victorians affected.

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