EMERGENCY services had been warning of damaging weather for hours last Thursday, but when a torrential downpour hit Leongatha at about 2.30pm, its intensity caught some people by surprise.
Of most concern was a large storm-water drain in McIndoe Park, which rose almost 2 metres in a matter of minutes, threatening nearby houses.
At one of the homes, water entered a back porch area, while it lapped at the front door of another home, prompting the owner to call the Leongatha SES Unit for sandbags.
“I’m not so worried about this,” said the resident with the flooded patio.
“My main concern is the drain,” she said.
A resident of Millicent Street, who has previously been impacted by flooding from the drain, said it happens every time there’s heavy rain.
“It used to happen all the time but they’ve since done some work to make the outfall pipe bigger and they’ve straightened it out so it runs better,” said the resident.
“But it doesn’t matter how good it is if they don’t clear away the branches, leaves and rubbish from the drain and the pits. It’s always going to clog up.
“It’s no good if they don’t do the maintenance,” he said.
The South Gippsland Shire Council, which was quickly on the scene after reports of flooding, denied the flooding was the result of lack of maintenance.
The shire’s Manager Operations, Infrastructure Maintenance, Fred Huitema, said instead that the debris which blocked the pit and culvert was washed into the drainage infrastructure at the height of the storm.
“Council maintains McIndoe Park and the drain to the highest standard possible within the resources available,” Mr Huitema said.
“All Council road and drainage maintenance works are prioritised according to the level of risk to ensure that the available resources are focusing on the safety of the community.
“Council has recently carried out works to increase the capacity and aid the flow of debris through the culvert.”
He explained that in the days leading up to the storm, there was some hot dry weather which placed trees under stress and they tended to shed more sticks and leaf litter than normal, under those conditions.
“Summer storms like the one Leongatha experienced on Thursday have a high rainfall intensity in a short time. This combination can create a higher amount of flood debris which can be problematic with the free flow of water through the drains.”
Council’s maintenance crews arrived in Turner Street as soon as possible to clear the drains and other Council staff visited the affected homes to provide support and advice on clean-up and insurance.
In fact, they arrived before the Leongatha Unit of the SES, which had been called out by a neighbour, who saw the flood water, from the storm-water drain and blocked culvert, lap to within a few centimetres of her front door.
SES called out
Controller of the Leongatha SES Unit said the service had received four calls in 15 minutes; from two houses in Turner Street and one on Bruce Street affected by the downpour and flash-flooding, and another in Peart Street where a tree had come down in the backyard.
“We didn’t have to do a great deal. The shire was on the scene before us,” said Matt Saario.
“Our members went in and checked on the residents and offered what help we could,” he said.
On the scene, former controller Tony Lindhart said he felt the property owners were fortunate enough to get away with little damage.
At Bass Coast, there was “nothing to report”, according to the shire.
Although Phillip Island, Wonthaggi and district were lashed by a couple of tropical cells, they passed over quickly without any damage.
“We didn’t receive any customer requests as a result of flooding,” said a spokesperson for the Bass Coast Shire Council.
“Inspections were performed by staff at various locations during and after the rain event, but by all accounts the drains coped well,” he said.