Premier defends storm warnings taken to ‘extremities’

A North East Country Fire Authority captain believes warnings of an “unprecedented weather event” wherein “farms would turn into lakes” were over-the-top.

Myrtleford CFA captain Gary Gunson said the warnings given to the town were a bit extreme considering what eventuated.

“It was very flat, it wasn’t what was expected, but we were prepared and that’s important,” Mr Gunson said. 

“We need warnings but maybe not to the extremities they did go.”

On Sunday, Daniel Andrews was forced to defend emergency warnings as he visited what was meant to be the flood’s epicentre Myrtleford and Wangaratta –  greeting CFA and SES volunteers by exclaiming it was “dryer than expected”. 

Mr Andrews said the Bureau of Meteorology correctly predicted the amount of rain, but implied he might have phrased warnings differently to the bureau.

“We can look back on whether some comments were words I would have used but ultimately the bureau and emergency services, myself included, we’ve been very clear with Victorian community,” he said. 

“The total of rainfall was absolutely accurate – the intensity of it was different and the exact location if it was a bit different, that’s something we all should be happy about.”

State weather bureau manager Dr Andrew Tupper too defended the language and warnings issued ahead of the storm, saying it was “pretty much as we described”.

Mr Andrews said he was certain Victorians would continue to heed warnings, including those likely to be issued later in the week, despite the fact this weekend’s floods did not eventuate. 

“We’ve been a bit fortunate as well that the ground conditions were a bit drier at the beginning of the event compared to last year,” he said. 

“We’re not out of the woods yet though there are still significant waters to flow through the rivers systems.

“We have further rain forecast for this week and the bureau are concerned it could be 100mm- it all depends where it falls and the intensity..”

State Emergency Services’ assistant chief officer Keith O’Brien stood by the emergency warnings issued including a prepare to leave evacuation notice for Myrtleford saying it was necessary to warn people of the possible risks. 

“There was a risk of a major flood in Myrtleford and surrounds and that would have meant  houses were inundated,” he said.

Mr O’Brien said Myrtleford was “fortunate” as the majority of rain had fallen in the Strathbogies and affected Euroa. 

He said had that rain fell in the Ovens catchment major flooding would have occurred and they warnings would have been “very valid”. 

“The flow time for the upper reaches of the Ovens to Myrtleford can be as long as ten hours so we need to let people know to get prepared early and in in my opinion that was the best decision from incident control centre,” he said. 

Myrtleford SES volunteers Lalnnah Rogers said they responded to about a 15 requests for assistance, but most people were very proactive about the potential floods and thoroughly prepared with sand bags and supplies.