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SES marks 10-year Vic floods anniversary

A decade on from devastating statewide floods, Victoria is weathering another wet summer driven by an active La Nina weather pattern.

The Victorian State Emergency Service has recognised the 10-year anniversary of the 2010/11 floods that caused $1.3 billion damage, sparked evacuations and cut off townships.

A third of the state was hit with flood or storm damage from September 2010 to February 2011, with the SES responding to a whopping 34,000 calls for help.

The La Nina-generated flooding reached its peak from January 9-15 as 100 to 300mm of rain fell over large parts of Victoria, making it the state’s wettest first month of the year on record.

It prompted dozens of evacuations and resulted in damage to homes, businesses, infrastructure and farmland.

Northeast regional manager Keith O’Brien oversaw much of SES’s response at the time and recalls communities across the state banding together.

“(It) was a devastating time for thousands of locals, farmers and businesses,” the then-incident controller said in a statement on Thursday.

“In addition to emergency services, it was residents who made an enormous difference – whether it be sandbagging their own properties or neighbours’, assisting with clean-ups and generally supporting each other through those floods.”

Kerang, Charlton, Echuca, Rochester, Wangaratta, Mildura and even Melbourne felt the impacts of the soggy summer, while Horsham and other Wimmera towns were “split” in two.

“Thanks to VICSES flood studies it was predictable and manageable,” 2010/11 incident controller and now mid west regional manager Stephen Warren said.

“Other areas did not have completed studies so impacts were difficult to manage.

“Unfortunately, several towns back then were completely flooded with little or no warning.”

Heavy falls caused flash flooding in Warrnambool and the Otway Ranges earlier this month, with Victoria confronting its first La Nina weather system since the 2010/11 event.

A decade on, Mr Warren says the SES has learned from the 2010/11 floods and now has local flood guides for more than 140 at-risk townships.

“Giving affected communities adequate warnings and involving them in decisions that will impact their properties are critical things we apply during serious incidents now,” he said.

“Whilst significant improvements have been made over the last decade, the community still needs to be prepared for what may occur and know what to do if they are threatened by rising floodwater.”

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