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14 January 2021
Ten years after La Nina generated flooding caused $1.3 billion damage, the Victoria State Emergency Service has reflected on the devastating impacts, and powerful stories from those that responded.
One third of Victoria experienced flooding or storm damage between September 2010 and February 2011. VICSES responded to 34,000 requests for assistance in that time.
Impacted townships in the Wimmera and Mid-West/Grampians region included: Horsham, Creswick, Clunes, Skipton, Jeparit, Rupanyup, Dimboola, Halls Gap and Ballarat.
Rainfall totals included 100-300mm for large areas of the state between January 9 and 15, 2011 as part of the wettest January in Victoria on record.
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Hundreds of evacuations took place, towns like Horsham ‘split’ in half by flooding, with serious damage to homes, businesses, farmland and infrastructure.
VICSES was the first agency to implement recommendations from Black Saturday Royal Commission, including multi-agency Regional Controllers and Deputy Incident Controllers.
VICSES mid-west regional manager Stephen Warren said significant improvements have been made to flood mitigation, warnings and response since, with emphasis on including local communities in key decisions and providing timely and clear flood warnings.
"Some towns in the Wimmera, including Horsham, were split down the middle – but thanks to flood studies it was predictable and manageable," he said.
"Other areas did not have completed studies so impacts were difficult to manage. Unfortunately, several towns were completely flooded with little or no warning."
Victoria is now experiencing its first La Nina weather system since this event, with heavy falls earlier in January 2021 leading to flash flooding in Warrnambool and the Otway Ranges. VICSES has responded to over 4100 callouts since the start of December.
"VICSES has learned so much from the 2010-11 floods. Giving affected communities adequate warnings, and involving them in decisions that will impact their properties, are critical things we apply during serious incidents now," Mr Warren said.
"Whilst significant improvements have been made over the last decade, the community still need to be prepared for what may occur know what to do if they are threatened by rising floodwater."
Victoria emergency managment commissioner Andrew Crisp said in the decade since the 2011 record floods in central Victoria, there have been significant improvements to emergency flood response to ensure the safety of at-risk communities.
"The emergency management sector is committed to continuous enhancements in ensuring Victoria has the best emergency preparedness and response to keep the community safe," he said.