Photo from The Daily Examiner in January 2013, showing the Clarence River in flood.
Photo from The Daily Examiner in January 2013, showing the Clarence River in flood.

Flood flashback: Uncertain reality threatening Grafton

WE'VE been lucky that it hasn't happened more often.

In 2013, the highest flood recorded at the Prince St gauge hit Grafton.

On January 29, the Bureau of Meteorology predicted he Prince St gauge would reach 8.1m with waters actually reaching 8.8m.

Clarence Valley Council local emergency management officer Kieran McAndrew said a Grafton levee-overtopping flood is expected to occur about once every 25 years.

"But in the 50 years since the levee was built we have had just the one, and a relatively minor overtopping event at that," he said.

"The next levee-overtopping flood may happen next year, or may not for another 100 years. These things are unpredictable.

"I think many people in Grafton learned from 2013 that it is possible for the Grafton levee system to overtop, many people before this probably never thought this would be possible."

The year before the flood, a new NSW SES Flood Plan included new flood modelling through SES consultation and using observations from the 2009 and 2011 floods.

"This new refined 2012 plan allowed the community to access specific data from either the NSW SES or Clarence Valley Council website on their local area, detailing all trigger alert mechanisms which will be used and the evacuation routes to the established assembly areas," he said.

"During this event, evacuation warning orders were issued to high-risk areas rather than all residents and a new evacuation centre, outside of the flood zone, was implemented.

"Other key indicators of the success of the 2013 event was the fact that an SES-led After Action Review revealed very little need to change any aspect of the 2012 plan, there was only positive media coverage of the SES's performance in the event."

Mr McAndrew said while Grafton experienced the record-breaking flood and levee overtopping, other parts of the Clarence Valley did not.

"In Maclean, the 2001 flood was higher than the 2013 flood," he said.

Now they know what happens when floodwaters overtop at the marks above 8m, they can use that information for future events.

"In a higher flood in Grafton more water will spill into Grafton for a longer period of time, resulting in parts or all, depending on the height and times, of Grafton being inundated with floodwater," he said.

"Since 2013 I think the council and SES have done a lot of work with community groups to ensure that people are ready for future floods. Many community meetings have been held with Dovedale residents, aged care industry, child care industry, chamber of commerce," he said.

Levee overtops in 2013 on Fry St: CREDIT: Clarence Valley Council/Kieran McAndrew
Levee overtops in 2013 on Fry St: CREDIT: Clarence Valley Council/Kieran McAndrew


Janu 29: River rise to 2001 levels
At least one woman has been evacuated from her home and others have been warned to prepare to leave their residences as floodwaters rise towards an expected 7.7m at Grafton at midday. 

Jan 30: Clubs succumb to flood
The South Grafton Ex-Servicemen's Club, the South Grafton Bowling Club and four properties on Riverside Dr, South Grafton, succumbed to rising floodwaters yesterday. Inside the South Grafton Ex- Servicemen's Club the water was ankle deep. The dining room, kitchen, TAB area and poker machine area have all been flooded

Jan 31: Flood-weary Lawrence residents have been through it all before
If ever a place knew how to cope during a flood, it's the village of Lawrence. Despite being all but ignored by media, Lawrence is one of the first places to go under and has no levee. When we spoke to Steve McFarlane, from the Lawrence General and Liquor Store, yesterday morning, his shop still had about 150mm of water through it.  

Feb 1: What flood? Cricket association follows tradition with Premier League match at Ellem Oval
Grafton's proud cricket history of never succumbing to floods will continue this weekend after committee members dismissed the idea of cancelling a whole round of fixtures.   

Feb 2: Coping after the impact

In Copmanhurst, floodwaters rose to the eaves of Linda Miles's home and inside her family's possessions were churned into complete chaos. "It must have been like a giant washing machine in here," she said.   

Feb 2: Yamba starts big beach clean-up
Holiday-makers sat looking at the debris-strewn Pippi Beach yesterday with dead sheep among the litter washed up. 

Feb 5: Valley still waits for flood cash
Clarence Valley flood victims still don't know whether or not they will be entitled to fast cash payments of between $400 and $1000, despite Queensland flood victims having access to the grants for days.