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Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

The year the water burst through

The News looks back at the floods that ravaged the region in 2012.

KAITLIN THALS December 26, 2012 4:14am

Cobram SES volunteer Corey Herezo in the main street of Katamatite.


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When a small town suffers a big shock, the best qualities of a community shine through.

As floodwaters ravaged parts of the Goulburn and Murray valleys during February and March, community spirit was overwhelming.

Up to 300mm of rainfall was recorded, causing river and creek levels to rise and severe flooding.

Tallygaroopna and Congupna were the first towns hit.

From there water moved towards Katamatite and then to Numurkah, Nathalia, Picola and Barmah.

The News was there to capture it all—from air, land and water— providing around-the-clock coverage in print and online.

The water may have receded, but the recovery process could amount to years and, for some, maybe never.

News reporter Kaitlin Thals looks back on the events.

SEYMOUR

More than 100mm of rain fell in Seymour on February 27, marking the beginning of what was the biggest flooding event recorded in north-east Victoria.

Major roads were closed when South Creek flooded across Wimble St.

State Emergency Service received 21 calls for assistance as homes and businesses experienced minor flooding and damage.

The rainfall caused stream rises and threatened areas of flooding in the Goulburn and Broken catchments.

TALLYGAROOPNA

As floodwater receded in Seymour, rain began to fall further north on February 29.

Tallygaroopna recorded more than 170mm of rain within six hours and residents were bracing themselves for more, including water coming in from outlying areas.

Students from Tallygaroopna Primary School waded through knee-deep water or travelled by canoe to attend school.

It was believed a lightning strike caused the whole town to lose power.

Five houses were inundated, with North St residents the worst off, yet most homes were protected by sandbags and an automatic pump.

Tallygaroopna Hotel was the only premises to receive water damage when water seeped into the back of the hotel. Two months later the hotel burned to the ground in a fire.

Rain falls continued, four or five times heavier than forecast, resulting in widespread flooding, road and school closures.

KATANDRA WEST

Katandra West copped a drenching on the same day as Tallygaroopna.

The day after floodwater swept through Katandra West, townspeople were going about their day as if nothing had happened.

The town had been saved from flooding by sandbags strategically placed to divert water from homes in the vicinity.

Local Country Fire Authority was in charge of the operation — and with the help of the residents’ local knowledge — led the community to safety.

As floodwater crept along Hickey Rd, Katandra West, men, women and children came from all directions to fight it.

CONGUPNA

During the early hours of March 1, Congupna residents watched and waited as floodwater crept through town and spread on to outlying properties.

By 3am, SES told residents to evacuate; some stayed to protect their homes with sandbags, while others left for drier ground.

At this stage, livestock losses across the region were minimal because farmers responded early to earnings of heavy rain, moving stock well before storms hit. Some Congupna residents claim they were given little warning of how much water was coming and with flood relief concentrated on other areas, their town had been forgotten.

As the Congupna community began to clean-up, Katamatite and Numurkah were told to prepare to evacuate.

KATAMATITE

Floodwater continued to wash across the region with Katamatite peaking at 3.1m on the morning of March 3 — 300mm above the 1974 level and 370mm above the 1993 level.

By Monday, 12 properties and one business had been inundated along Boosey Creek.

More schools and roads were closed and people braced themselves for the shocking clean-up and insurance claim nightmare.

Because of the flat land, it would take more than one week for water to drain.

 

NUMURKAH

Numurkah battled a record flood on March 4, forcing the evacuation of the town’shospital and nursing home.

Homes, properties and businesses were inundated as Broken Creek swelled across the region.

For the residents, the end result of the flood on Numurkah and its hospital was up for debate—and still is.

After endless community meetings and an independent review of the floods in northeast Victoria, it was found ineffective communication, management and preparation led to unnecessary flooding of towns—with Numurkah identified as the most affected.

Outpouring of emotion continue to flow across Numurkah and district about the handling of the floods.

The town will be without a fully-functioning health facility for more than two years, but residents have been reassured full hospital services will be reinstated.

 

WUNGHNU

Flooding meant none of Wunghnu Primary School’s students could get to school for two weeks.

So the school’s principal, Brendan Kenna, had to think outside the box to make sure his students continued learning.

The school was closed for a week-and-a-half because of the water that swept through the town.

Even with the water receding, two of its 17 students were still isolated and, with clean-up works underway, the rest were taking the bus to Tallygaroopna to share the town’s primary school.

As well as emails, Mr Kenna used new online system Ultranet, a program that allowed students to login at home to access schoolwork assigned to them by teachers.

Teachers were also able to track their students and communicate with them through the program.

 

NATHALIA

Nathalia soon became national news when a man-made levee bank stopped floodwater inundating the town.

Residents—and a media pack—held their breath as they watched the water rising, moving from Numurkah down Broken Creek.

Resident were told to evacuate on March 8, with fears the levee would crumble, as floodwater bubbled through the bitumen.

By March 11, water began to recede—Nathalia conquered the floods.

However, for outlying properties it was another story, with thousands of dollars of crops, stock and orchards destroyed by floodwater.

 

NARING

As floodwater approached Naring, a small farming community north-east of Numurkah, the community rallied and the local Country Fire Authority took charge.

Protecting homes was a priority and properties were sandbagged immediately.

Naring CFA captain Alan Hendy, a third-generation fire captain, said local knowledge saved the community from going under.

He said there were no warnings, but they knew what was coming—they listened to radios and communicated with people upstream.

They had their own measuring sticks—pencils—and measured it every so often.

Naring experienced three separate peaks.

 

BARMAH, PICOLA

Floodwater continued to move across the north-east and hit Barmah and Picola properties next.

SES tipped about 80 homes would be inundated in the outlying areas.

More than 10 people from outside Barmah evacuated as hundreds of sandbags were delivered to the area.

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