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Race on to protect homes as rivers and creeks continue to rise across south-west Victoria

By Daniel Miles and Jackson Peck, Saturday October 10, 2020 - 19:30 EDT
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A farmhouse north of Port Fairy is surrounded by floodwaters following heavy rains. - ABC

The Victorian seaside town of Port Fairy is known for its water views, but residents were on Saturday dealing with more than they bargained for after the heaviest rain in a decade.

There were fears that more than 150 homes in south-west Victoria could be flooded following a deluge of spring rain earlier this week.

Heavy weather swept across the state on Thursday and Friday, bringing more rain in hours than some parts had seen in the past 12 months.

Authorities warned the subsequent floods could do more damage than the 2010 floods that saw the Army called in to assist residents.

The Moyne River, which runs through Port Fairy,  rose to nearly four-times its usual height, with muddy brown rainwater flooding paddocks, backyards and footpaths.

At least 10 houses in Port Fairy were flooded as a result, and locals were hoping steady easing in river heights on Saturday meant there was light at the end of the tunnel.

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

'Peak hasn't hit yet'

The SES set up an incident control centre [ICC] in Warrnambool on Thursday and by Saturday afternoon the south-west region had the most requests for assistance, including 33 for flooding and 13 for fallen trees, mostly in Warrnambool.

Across Victoria, crews had responded to 163 calls for help in 24 hours on Friday and Saturday. One hundred of those were for fallen trees and 39 were for flooding.

The Bureau of Meteorology on Saturday issued a moderate flood warning for Port Fairy and for the King River. A minor flood alert was also in place for the Goulburn River.

Port Fairy ICC unit controller Stephen McDowell said the risk of more flooding remained.

"I've been in the SES 28 years, and this is by far the worst flooding I've seen in Port Fairy," Mr McDowell said.

"Our hydrologists are predicting that the peak to this point hasn't quite hit Port Fairy yet.

"We have crews continually working out there. They'll be working throughout tonight and into tomorrow."

Heavy rain swept across the region on Thursday night with 56mm falling at Warrnambool in three hours.

Rivers have risen steadily since. The Merri River jumped from 1.65 metres on Thursday to 8.13 metres on Friday.

Data from the Bureau of Meteorology shows that levels have dropped to just over 5 metres on Saturday.

Farm stock was moved to dry land where possible, with many working throughout the night to corral cattle and sheep.

A warning alert for Warrnambool was downgraded on Saturday, however Port Fairy residents were advised to stay alert for further potential flooding.

Sandbagging to save house

Port Fairy resident Rosie Mercer was full of praise for emergency service workers who arrived to sandbag her garage at 5am on Saturday.

"It came up very slowly to begin with then after this morning it's come up very quickly," the retired school teacher said, as water flowed beneath her house.

"This has never happened with any floods I've seen here before."

Ms Mercer was concerned what more rain might bring.

"I think there's still a bit of a risk. The land around is very saturated and if we get more rain it could stay like this for a little while," she said.

A moderate flood warning remains in place f.


© ABC 2020

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