WE SAY: Hype around deluge leaves authorities with questions over communications approach

IT is fair to say the predicted wet weather for Victoria was overhyped.

Predictions of a storm that would be a 10 out of 10 and create widespread destruction fizzled out.

Certainly there was plenty of rain in some areas, with 200 millimetres falling on parts of the ranges.

But there was not the destruction that you may have expected based on the grim warnings of the Bureau of Meteorology, emergency authorities and the Victorian premier Daniel Andrews.

Of course, we’re delighted that is the case and flooding has been relatively minor.

Nevertheless, there are serious questions raised by the response to this summer storm.

Were the warnings over-the-top and unnecessarily alarmist?

Will the response create greater cynicism the next time such a scenario emerges?

In the North East, we are familiar with floods and the Myrtleford and Wangaratta communities in particular have come to expect inundations.

So it is not surprising the locals are phlegmatic about the weekend’s downpour and shaking their heads at the fuss, particularly from some Melbourne-based media outlets.

Of course, the authorities involved, including the Emergency Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley, Mr Andrews and weather bureau manager Andrew Tupper, are defending the stance taken in the lead-up to the deluge.

“We know that events have been cancelled and people have put in a lot of work – it was certainly the kind of event worth preparing for,” Dr Tupper said.

"So, if we had our time again, yes, we would put out an event with similar language to that."

That’s a remarkable admission, considering it was one of his forecasters who when asked to rank the impending tempest said “10 out of 10”.

That sort of comment creates the impression of a cyclonic-style downpour and a natural disaster declaration being an automatic outcome.

The reality is we had exceptional rainfall for December and it has created some havoc, but it was not catastrophic.

Nobody can control the weather, but we can temper forecasts with language and actions that don’t engender excessive panic or cynicism.

Getting that balance right is the big lesson from this episode.