Monday, March 4, 2024

Hot and dry or wet and steamy?

Recent stories

Predictions of the nation’s weather holds tremendous weight. In September, the BOM’s El Nino predictions and the subsequent media hysteria saw cattle and sheep markets collapse as growers responded to the best available computer modelling. 

The country’s leading climate weather forecasters’ monthly climate models of December temperature predicted an 80 per cent chance of exceeding both the median maximum and median minimum temperatures. While the monthly rainfall predictions took until January 3 to predict a wetter than average month.

In the meantime, communities have been smashed with heavy rains with local towns far exceeding historical median rainfall figures. While Kerang’s December historical rainfall mean is 27.7mm, this December saw 118mm, outdone by 1930 (136mm), 1894 (155mm) and 1992 (180mm). A lack of BOM listed data for Koondrook-Barham, Cohuna, Moulamein and Wakool makes comparison difficult, but similar trends were present for Lake Boga 78mm (mean 23.9mm) and Swan Hill 106mm (mean 24mm).

The December 25 downpour in Kerang elicited a response from Gannawarra Shire as locals took to social media to vent their frustrations over localised flooding. 

“The flooding of Kerang on Christmas Day was the worst I have seen during my 30-plus years working with the Gannawarra Shire Council, as well as previously with the Borough and Shire of Kerang,” Council Chief Executive Officer, Geoff Rollinson said.

“Although Kerang is protected by 17 kilometres of flood protection levees, these levees have the opposite effect in a storm event, with most of the stormwater needing to be pumped back into the Loddon River.”

Council staff began monitoring Kerang’s 14-pump network when the rain began in both instances, drawing the system down to reduce any pressure on the network.

Despite these efforts, the power outage on December 25 affected 11 of these pumps, causing stormwater to inundate streets throughout Kerang and some houses to be impacted by flooding.

With Santa a distant memory, the roll into the New Year didn’t get much better. The January 2 storm dumped rain across the districts and another 50-75mm of rain in a one-hour period in Kerang. Trees fell as strong winds ripped them from their roots along the Murray and branches were sent flying as calls for assistance went out to deal with the debris.

By this stage, hot and dry had been abandoned as my yard was a lake of water, branches and leaves scattered everywhere and grass growing faster than my waistline after all the Christmas indulgences!   

Pity the fool who thought it was over, though! Sunday, January 7 the heavens opened once again, 65-125mm of rain fell, causing chaos with gutters giving up, housing and shops flooding and areas of Kerang once again a lake. 

“The rain that impacted the Gannawarra on 7-8 January has affected residents in various ways, whether it was through cutting road access to properties or inundation of properties, homes and businesses,” Mr Rollinson said.

Kerang historical average mean rainfall is 23mm; for the first nine days of January, they recorded 126mm.

Gannawarra residents needing to dispose of flood or storm-damaged waste following the recent storm and flood events can do so for free at any of Council’s transfer stations until Friday, January 19.

“The storms and flash flooding have impacted many residents, with some having to find other accommodation until repairs to their dwellings are completed,” Mr Rollinson said.

“Providing this free service is one of many ways Council is supporting residents following these events, which are classified by the Bureau of Meteorology as having a less than 1 per cent chance of occurring in any given year.”

Residents accessing this service will be asked to provide their name, address and phone number when entering any of Council’s transfer stations. For details regarding transfer station locations and opening hours, please click on the Transfer Station heading at www.gsc.vic.gov.au/waste.

It seems the weather odds are in favour of beating the house, a 1 per cent rainfall event, defeating an 80 per cent chance of hot and dry. Is it the climate? Is it weather? How much stock do we put in computer models and predictions? 

Stay dry and pray you never see an 1870 flood!

The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper 11 January 2024

This article appeared in The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper, 11 January 2024.

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