Home / ABC NEWS / Rain brings reprieve in Victoria but storms pose ‘dangerous’ flood threat

Rain brings reprieve in Victoria but storms pose ‘dangerous’ flood threat



January 11, 2020 19:41:58

Rain in parts of Victoria has given firefighters a reprieve from horror conditions, but forecast storms are now threatening to cause “exceptionally dangerous” flash flooding in fire-affected areas next week, authorities say.

Key points:

  • The cool change reached eastern Victoria late on Friday, triggering horror fire conditions
  • Exhausted crews faced wild winds but authorities are hoping to use milder weather to contain the blazes
  • For the latest emergency information, visit the Vic Emergency website

Rain has fallen on firegrounds in parts of East Gippsland, where a huge blaze has been raging for weeks, but other areas missed out on significant falls, including the north-east and fire-ravaged Mallacoota in the far-east.

There was one emergency warning in place in Victoria on Saturday evening in the Buckland Valley and Mount Buffalo area.

Fires continue to burn near Mount Hotham in the state’s Alpine region.

A number of other emergency warnings that were in place on Friday night, including for a new fire on Wodonga’s south-eastern outskirts were also downgraded earlier on Saturday.

Storms could hit state mid-week

The rain has not been enough to extinguish the large so-called “campaign fires” burning across much of the state’s east, but will allow fatigued crews to be rested while the immediate danger subsides.

Authorities warned the wetter weather would bring with it the risk of severe thunderstorms, which could lead to more risk on the firegrounds.

“Which again sounds bizarre in this situation where you’ve got fire, but [there is the] potential for flash flooding and also lightning,” Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville said.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) expects storms to hit the west of the state on Wednesday or Thursday, before moving across Victoria and into fire zones.

Ms Neville said flash flooding would be “exceptionally dangerous for our firefighters and emergency service workers”.

“In the past, we have seen deaths as a result of those conditions,” she said.

The BOM’s Jonathan How said the heavier rainfall was a “double-edged sword” that could make access more difficult for firefighters.

Corryong fire meets NSW ‘mega-blaze’

The northern tip of the near fire near Corryong has met with the “mega-blaze” in New South Wales — the Green Valley, Dunns Road and East Ournie Creek fires, which also merged yesterday.

But conditions have also eased across the border, and NSW’s fire chief said authorities were “extremely relieved” conditions were not as bad as forecast.

Crews will battle to strengthen containment lines and bring the dozens of fires burning across the state under control during the milder weather.

“We’re far from out of the woods, this will be something we’ll have to remain vigilant on,” CFA deputy chief officer Garry Cook said

“The risk is far from over.”

More than 30 local tradespeople were flown into the fire-impacted Upper Murray, landing in Corryong this morning with the assistance of the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

It will save tradies from travelling a seven-hour round trip each day from Albury, and reduce the time needed to fix the main power line.

More than 17 power lines were downed as the fire tore through the area on New Year’s Eve.

A generator has been supplying some power to the town, but many properties in outlying areas are still without power.

Some areas face repeated fire threat

Some towns including areas near Omeo faced further extreme fire danger on Friday night, after having been in the fire frontline a week ago.

The small hamlet of Cobungra, west of Omeo, lost five houses last Saturday when a major firestorm came though the area, but crews successfully kept flames at bay on Friday night.

Matt Folkman’s family home was saved but he said Friday night was “pretty intense”.

“It was pretty full-on, we had plenty of crew around which was good,” he said.

“Pretty lucky for the most part, we’re all feeling pretty good … we got some great rain which was good.”

Alpine region could remain closed to tourists for weeks

The Great Alpine Road remains closed between Cobungra and Germantown, due to the ongoing fires near Mount Hotham.

Victoria Police and the ADF doorknocked in the tourist town of Bright and nearby communities of Harrietville and Wandiligong after an evacuation warning was issued on Friday, and said most people had left the area.

Firefighters are using the cooler conditions to plan backburning operations to try to secure properties in the region.

It could be several weeks before tourists are invited back into Bright and other Alpine towns, which are usually bustling with tourists at this time of year.

Paul Bates, the incident controller at Ovens, said there were no lightning strikes or ember attacks as feared yesterday.

“We didn’t want people in the area should that worst case scenario come about,” Mr Bates said.

Mr Bates said the historic Mount Buffalo Chalet is “all good” after earlier fears it could be destroyed.

“Someone said it has survived many bushfires.”

Bushfires bad for business

Further south, the owner of the Nowa Nowa general store, Sandra Huggins, stayed in the small town as the fires raged.

“With no phone, internet or power at one stage it was all pretty hairy but it’s all starting to get back to normal,” she told ABC Radio Melbourne.

“But I guess our biggest problem going forward will be that we want customers — our town wants customers.”

That sentiment was shared in the Alpine town of Bright where tour operators and business owners are bracing for tough times ahead as fire activity deters visitors.

The Alpine Shire estimated the fires could cost the region $90 million in lost revenue for the tourism and agriculture sectors.

Mayor Peter Roper said the shire “would lose businesses” after 35,000 people were forced to leave in the past week because of the fires.

Mr Roper said it was a “disaster” for the area.

At Bright dress shop About My Sister, at this time of year there are usually “lines to the change rooms”, according to owner Riyani Martorejo.

“We’re really hoping people will come back to Bright when the emergency warnings die down,” she said.

“All we can do is open our doors and keep going.”























First posted

January 11, 2020 05:21:20

stories from Victoria

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