Flood Friday

I made a brief return to the airwaves today, as part of ABC Radio’s coverage of the North Coast floods.

As a Lismore-boy, born and bred, and having lived through my fair share of floods, I have a reasonable knowledge of how the floods “work”, and of the main indicators that you need to keep an eye out for.

For my colleagues in Sydney, I wrote the following briefing notes…

NORTH LISMORE: North Lismore has no flood protection. It’s a low-lying area that floods EVERY time Lismore gets a flood, so an evacuation of North Lismore isn’t that unusual. A couple of thousand people live there. There aren’t many businesses. They’re used to flooding and to evacuations. A bit of trivia, I went to school in North Lismore, and in 1983, HSC year, when the flood reached 8.18 metres, our HSC class still went to school, even though we were surrounded by water.

LISMORE TOWN: The CBD has a levee bank which protects the town area set to 10.65 metres. It’s like a big “Berlin Wall” around the town, and they’re saying it’s very likely the levee will be breached, and the town will be inundated. It’s the main shopping district for the city, even though there are other shopping centres like Lismore Square. If it does, here are some attached images which help illustrate what the figures all mean…

SOUTH LISMORE: South Lismore has a system of flood gates and a levee bank. Mostly South Lismore is fine, except in major floods. This is where most of my family lives. There’s an area at the bottom of Union Street which is likely to flood, based on the current estimates. My granny, mum, sister and others lived in that area for a long-time. The flooding they have is a bit like the flooding they have in North Lismore. Even though there’s an evacuation order underway for South Lismore, I think most people will choose to stay, unless they’re old. There’s a lot of older people who live in South Lismore. It’s an ageing working class suburb, but it’s also a younger low-income suburb too, with some shops including a local supermarket “Cassagrande’s” (Serg Cassagrande’s family has run the business for decades) and a pub “Hogan’s Heroes” (hotelier, Doug Hogan). If South Lismore floods, almost all of the houses should be fine, as they’re almost all on stilts. I’ve got two sisters, as well as cousins etc who live in South LIsmore. I’m pretty sure they’ll be fine, and I doubt if they’ll follow the evacuation order. The last time South Lismore was genuinely flooded was in April 1989 when the river height reached 11.28 metres. That meant about three or four feet of water in everyone’s backyard.

The notes go on, and on, and they seemed to help my colleagues in Sydney make sense of a fairly regular situation that occurs in the area. In some years, for example 1967 and 1974, we have five floods in a row! I hoped these notes would lead to more informed reporting.

Damien emailed me earlier in the day with concern about my family, saying one television station had reported the flood in Lismore was “the worst in decades”.

I replied…

They’re all fine of course. The current prediction is 10.4 metres which will flood some parts of South Lismore. If Nancy was still living down the bottom of Union Street, she’d have water around her place. “The worst flood in decades”? Typical journalistic hyperbole… Based on 10.4 metres… It’s 20cm higher than the flood in June 2005.
2cm lower than February 2001.
88cm lower than April 1989.
38cm lower than May 1987.
2cm lower than March 1987.
And 1.77m lower than March 1974.
So…. “The worst flood in decade”? A more accurate description would be “the worst flood since June 2005”

It was fun going back on the radio. And I hope my local knowledge made a significant contribution to accurate reporting.

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