By Derek Schlennstedt and Peter Douglas
While it wasn’t the rainfall of epic proportions as predicted, the Yarra Valley region did experience a significant deluge, resulting in disruption to services and events.
Over the predicted high danger period, from Friday 1 December through to Sunday 3 December, a combined 82.2mm of rain was recorded at the Yarra Glen weather station, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.
This three-day rainfall figure eclipsed the 2017 November rainfall at the station of 68.4mm.
The highest daily rainfall figure was also recorded for 2017, with 50mm lashing the region on the Saturday, more than the 35mm recorded on February this year.
The Bureau of Meteorology issued a severe weather warning and flood watch for most parts of Victoria on Friday 1 December, warning of flash flooding, disruptions to main traffic routes, inundations of buildings and impacts to basic services such as public transport, sewerage, and power and water supplies.
A moderate flood warning was also issued for Yarra River in the Watts River catchment, which received rainfall averaging about 102mm since 9am Saturday.
Lilydale SES Deputy Unit Controller, Shaun Caulfield, said the region had heeded the warnings and prepared well, taking advantage of sandbag collection points at Healesville and Lilydale.
But Mr Caulfield said it was a typically busy time for the unit, with over 60 call-outs.
“We had 63 calls for assistance, most of those were for either leaking roofs or water coming into the building through the gutters – we had quite a lot of trees over roads and onto buildings,” he said.
In Healesville, unit controller Geoff Stott said they had a number of streets flooded and SES member Olivia Madigan said much of that flooding came on the Sunday.
“Had quite a bit of flooding and a few trees across road,” Mr Stott said.
“The main flooding was on the Saturday night around houses – a lot of people had been working through the day to get rid of it and when the heavier rains came they needed help with sandbags,” Ms Madigan said.
Between Healesville and Lilydale SES over 3000 sandbags were given out, though there were still reports of floods on Beenak Road in Wandin North, Melba Highway between Coldstream and Yering, and on River Street in Healesville.
Ms Madigan said that despite signs warning motorists to not enter flood waters, they still had several people attempting to drive through them.
“There was a lot of debris in the water around River Street – we pulled out a gas bottle – people driving through it wouldn’t know what they were driving over,” she said.
Yarra Ranges Tourism noted many events were cancelled over the weekend which, it said, would impact on local operators.
On Sunday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews was forced to defend emergency warnings as he visited what was meant to be the flood’s epicentre, in North-East Victoria.
Mr Andrews told other media the Bureau of Meteorology could only use the data they had available, but implied they could be working on their phrasing.
“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 the Victorian community,” he said.
“The total of rainfall was absolutely accurate – the intensity of it was different and the exact location of it was a bit different, that’s something we all should be happy about.”
Yarra Ranges Council chief executive officer, Glenn Patterson, had also encouraged residents to heed the warnings issued and steer clear of floodwaters.
Council said residents whose houses suffered major structural damage should contact their insurer and the relevant council.
Council added if the house had suffered major damage, council would complete a building assessment and provide advice on whether the house was habitable.