By Michael Giles
The Bureau of Meteorology has warned of hazardous road conditions and floods from the unfolding, severe weather event that’s impacting the region.
According to Senior Meteorologist Kevin Parker, speaking to the media at the state emergency control centre on Wednesday afternoon, “we will see heavy rain leading to major flooding, and also damaging wind gusts causing widespread vegetation damage”, that’s is fallen trees, branches and debris across our roads as winds gust up to 120km/h.
“This severe weather event is all linked to a low pressure system over the Tasman Sea, and this low pressure system has very similar characteristics to something that we call an ‘East Coast Low’ and East Coast Lows are responsible for some of the most significant rainfall events leading to flooding in Gippsland.”
He quoted the event in June 2012, when there was extensive flooding throughout central and East Gippsland as the most likely comparison event.
“East Coast Low is a familiar term to the Gippsland community and also to the emergency services. The impacts from East Coast Lows in recent times extend back to perhaps 2012 in June when we saw heavy rain across West Gippsland, and that resulted in the Latrobe River breaking its banks.
“I’m not saying that’s going to happen this time, but rain rates and totals look very similar indeed.
“So, the rain that we’ve seen already across the state has mostly occurred in western and central parts. In fact, we saw some local falls of 50 millimetres in the west of the state, but in terms of rainfall in Gippsland it’s only just started.
“So, since 9am we’ve seen some local falls at near 40 millimetres of rain at Mount Tassie which feeds into the Avon, but in terms of the catchments that are likely to see these heavy rainfall totals over the next 12 to 18 hours, we’re sort of thinking, the Avon, the McAllister, the Thompson, the Latrobe rivers, and even the tributaries that feed on the Strzeleckis Ranges as well.
“They’re all going to be at risk,” Mr Parker said.
“So, the rain that we’re seeing in Gippsland at the moment is only going to intensify. In fact, the most intense rains are expected overnight, and because of that, the Bureau of Meteorology is likely to issue early flood warnings before the rivers even peak, so stay tuned for those.
“The rainfall quantities, over this next 12 to 18 hours is likely to be broadly between 70 and 100 millimetres. That’s quite significant, but some of the more elevated locations through Gippsland, and also the Strzeleckis could see falls of 150 to 250 millimetres, that’s a significant amount of rain.
“And as a result of that, we’re likely to see major flooding.
“Heavy rains also likely to occur in the Upper Yarra and also around the Central Rangers. We’re a bit concerned about heavy rain falling in the Macedon area, which could also lead to flash flooding and river rises in places like Werribee and the Maribyrnong.
“This event is not just about the rainfall leading to flooding. It has a significant wind component. In fact, we’ve already seen damaging winds across western Victoria. The Grampians are seeing wind gusts in excess of 100 kilometres an hour and similar magnitude wind gusts along the south-west coast. But the most intense winds are likely to manifest through central parts including Melbourne, the Gippsland area, and the Central Highlands tonight into the early hours of tomorrow morning.
“In fact, some of these guests could reach 120 kilometres-an-hour. The combination of wet soils, water laden canopy and damaging winds, is what’s likely to result in widespread damage to vegetation, so be careful on the roads, there’ll be branches stripped from trees, likely to see trees on roads.
“It could be very dangerous on the roads indeed over the next 12 hours. And that’s on top of any riverine flooding or flash flooding, coming from this heavy rainfall.
“Hopefully, by sunrise tomorrow, the heavier rain will have contracted to the western part of Gippsland. There’ll be some residual damage in gusts through central parts, but we’ll be on a downhill path as Thursday unfolds and severe weather becomes less likely.
“And we’ll just be contending with all the flooding that’s coming down those major river systems that I’ve mentioned.
“So, in terms of significance in terms of severe weather event, affecting Victoria, I’m quite concerned, if we compare similar rainfall totals previously in western and south Gippsland, we have to think back to about June 2012.
“We have had heavy rain events, but at this sort of magnitude in that part of the world, that’s probably the most significant event in recent times.
“So, most of the severe weather should have abated by Thursday afternoon, but we’ll be contending with some of our river systems being in major flood, particularly the Latrobe, the tributaries feeding off the Strzeleckis and perhaps the Thompson, the Avon and the McAllister as well.
“There’ll be other rivers in minor flooding, so there’ll be something that people traveling will have to contend with, but there also could be a fair bit of debris on the roads from these damaging winds. So, that will be updated I’m sure on the VicRoads website, and it just be careful driving on the roads.”
The SES has already fielded 100s of calls for emergency help.