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Floods across south-west Victoria after average monthly rain falls in two days

By Sarah Jane Bell, Daniel Miles and Matt Neal, Friday October 9, 2020 - 23:10 EDT
Audience submitted image
Residents in the Warrnambool suburb of Merrivale evacuate chickens from floodwaters. - Audience submitted

Rivers continue to rise in south-west Victoria, threatening homes, closing dozens of roads and inundating farms in the worst flood event in the region in a decade.

The State Emergency Service warned rivers, including the Merri and the Moyne, had already risen to heights which affected more than 167 properties.



The SES responded to 160 requests for help in south-west Victoria on Thursday and Friday, more than half of which were for flooding-related emergencies.

North of Warrnambool, from the Merri River after the area exceeded its average October rainfall in just two days.

Woodford Primary School was forced to close — ironically due to a lack of water.



Flood levels reached a storage area under a high verandah where the school's water pumps and tanks are located, but teacher David Atkinson said the damage was minimal.

"There's no damage [to buildings, but] the playground's under water, the sandpit's gone, the cubby houses are lost, and the fence is just gone," he said.

"We had floods in 2011 and 2016, but this is worse — it's flowing much quicker and higher.

"We're anticipating it will get higher, but the school is safe."

Where's my cubby house?

Woodford Primary School students were sent home after their playground and oval were inundated.



However, one student returned to a rude surprise — his cubby house was upside down and flooding with water.

"Our house has got flooded, and all of our backyard is gone," six-year-old Will Kenwright said.

The primary school student said he was excited to return home early, but recalled with dread watching his cubby house being swept away by floodwaters.

"First it kind of turned, then it was bobbing," Will said.

"The tennis court has flooded, everything has flooded."



Waters still rising

The Moyne River reached 4.37 metres and was steadily rising throughout Friday.

SES south-west regional duty officer Bradley Jew said the SES had received multiple call-outs to properties in Port Fairy and Warrnambool.

"It's caused a bit of grief overnight," Mr Jew said.

"The issue with Port Fairy this morning is it's getting quite close to the levels we saw with the 2010 floods and similar with the Merri River."

The 2010 floods that swept the region were with the to help evacuate residents.



Mr Jew said Warrnambool's suburbs of Dennington and South Warrnambool were areas of concern, despite the rain easing.

Warrnambool received 56mm of rain in a three-hour period after midnight on Thursday.

"There has been a lot of water come down into those catchment areas and unfortunately it does take a while for that to come down that river system," Mr Jew said.

"We are seeing the effects of what fell a couple of days ago.

"Unfortunately it's probably going to get a bit worse before it gets better."

The SES is urging residents to check the regularly and to avoid flooded roads.

"Obviously there are a lot of inundated roads out there and we want to reinforce, please don't drive through the floodwater," Mr Jew said.



Roads, farms flooded

Port Fairy's SES controller, Steve McDowall, said their crews had been flat out since the early hours of Thursday.

"The Moyne River for Port Fairy is rising rapidly," he said.

"There's water across the road in several locations … anybody travelling today, I would suggest they check the routes and allow more time."

Dozens of roads have been impacted across Moyne Shire, with residents urged to check the shire's Facebook page for information.



Former Moyne mayor and farmer Daniel Meade said October rain is normally welcome.

"I think the amount we've had this week is probably enough for farmers around the district — hold off a couple of weeks," he said.

'A sight to behold'

Warrnambool resident Judy Mills said her backyard, which is adjacent to Russells Creek, was entirely flooded.

"[A neighbour's] place looks over the valley of the Merri River and it's completely covered in water — it's a sight to behold," she said.



Ms Mills said the Merri's floodwaters were approaching a new housing estate near the Warrnambool Golf Club.

"I'm not sure how much more water we're expecting, but they'd have to be a little bit worried, they're new houses," she said.

Woolsthorpe farmer Graeme Glasgow said he recorded more than 140mm of rain over the past five days, and the rising waters of Spring Creek had flooded his paddocks and washed away fences.

"I shifted the cows, they were down near the creek, I shifted them away, and again in the afternoon, just to make doubly sure to get them well away," Mr Glasgow said.

"There's a not lot you can do."



Flash flooding in Coleraine

In the early hours of the morning a flash flood warning was issued for Coleraine due to water levels in the storm water system.

"Luckily we've managed to get on top of that and it should be downgraded later on today," Mr Jew said.

He said roads in the area were heavily inundated by the flash flooding.

"There are still some low-lying roads that may still have some water on them, but the water is slowly subsiding," he said.

The latest information and flood warnings can be found .


- ABC

© ABC 2020

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