What Flood?

FB_IMG_1490923953644The March 2017 flood in the Tweed was not only the worst on record but came far faster and with less warning than anything before.

Less than three hours before the flood began the Bureau of Meteorology was still forecasting only 120 to 200mm of rain. This was despite being notified 12 months ago by TweedCAN that their forecasts were grossly underestimating rain in this catchment.  Even as flood gauges rose vertically, flood warnings had not been upgraded.

More hours passed before evacuations were announced but by then bridges were under, power had Uki Mar 2017failed in many areas and school buses were  struggling to get kids home. Then the chaos began. Which routes were closed and where? Was their an emergency route to Tweed Hospital? Where was fuel still available?

Last year TweedCAN sent detailed information to the Tweed/Byron Emergency Management  Committee warning of fast rising floods underestimated by forecasts especially in Autumn. The was no response. Nor was there any response to suggestions for involving the community, improving information flow,  secure emergency routes and assistance for the IMG_2231elderly. After a summer breaking all temperature records you might think the decision makers would be taking climate change seriously. Unfortunately there are administrators and long serving councillors that refuse to accept global warming and there are more who shirk the issue as politically contentious.

So despite the tireless efforts of council workers and emergency volunteers most of us we were left to cope on our own . Isolated communities banded together to do what they could though nothing had been prepared. The myroadinfo website struggled to keep up but the reports were too few, too sketchy and too slow to be updated. Far better was the community facebook page “Murwillumbah Matters” where people posted usable information on what routes were open.

Emergency planning has to change. It has to involve the community as partners, not just as sheep to be herded or left stranded. Resilience and independence has to be encouraged for locations prone to isolation and across the Tweed generally. Resources need to be focused on upgrading selected emergency routes to serve us better in a crisis. And decision makers who still doubt climate change should seek other roles where their prejudice will be less costly to us all.



  1. Greg,

    Uki and surrounds has been very pro-active as a community organising rrespince to flooding in patrnership with SES and emergency services.

    Calls for local area co-ordinations have gone out on numerous occasions. Your input would be be valued by the Uki flood group.

    Contact can be made via the web site.


  2. Kimberley Murphy

    I saw the devastation of this flood first hand when I went down there last Tuesday to deliver a gurney, fuel and some help to friends in the area. They told us how fast the water rose and how quickly everything changed. They are long term residents of the area and are good practical horse breeding people with professions of nursing and project management. Fortunately, they did not lose any of their valuable horses due to their quick thinking and the use of a neighbours Kayak to swim 3 young horses, 5 mths, and two fifteen mth yearlings to safety at a neighbours farm 2 km down the rd. Their own house missed being flooded by 4″ . Underneath the home on stilts, Dino lost all of his valuable work tools and Mel’s 4WD was washed away and written off. This is not an uncommon story. People also drowned in their caravans because the river rose flood came on so quickly.
    After the disaster in Brisbane and surrounds in 2011 I am surprised that there was such little foresight and lack of planning and communication. Nature is perverse but we do have good meteorological information even on social media. I could see how bad it was from the posts coming in. No system is perfect however and we are all human. Maybe better communication is all that is needed along with more cooperation in the future.

  3. Ive got a better road photo for you–i did put it on facebook-i think i posted it to the uki community site..if you cant find the byrrill creek road after the flood send me an email and i’ll post to you that way, thank-you for your article,

  4. The Australian government MUST help first Australans and after all the other countries or did other countries help australa on this…
    We lost 7 life’s and lots of mental problems to lots of people .
    No one got here to help the army was nowhere .
    I must stop because I am ready to start sayin things I shouldn’t say

  5. My husband rang SES approx 11 am on the Thursday concerned at the rapid flow of the North Arm crossing the road at Urliup / Dulguigan roads and advising that with record rainfall in the catchment area we were in for a big flood and requesting that farmers in the area be warned to enable stock and machinery to be moved to high ground. He was advised to contact local police.
    He discussed his concerns with the police at Tweed Heads (no one in Murwillumbah) and was advised that they would contact the Northern Comander of SES and he would phone back. We are still waiting for that phone call. Graham is a 76 year old who has lived all his life in the area . He has worked in South Murwillumbah and witnessed floods both before and after the levees. We have followed rainfall and river heights for over 50 years and all the signs were there for a massive flood. No one in authority was interested. There are many more stories like this in the community. People have been fantastic after the event but early appropriate warnings would have saved a lot of heartache and distress.

  6. Marianne Melnikas

    I was a follower of your group, now with comments as those made above saying our recent floods were the result of global warming is wrong on every level.
    Two normal weather patterns for this time of year met up and caused these catastrophic events.
    Any fool realises our plant is warming up as the ice age, which has not fully ended yet, comes closer to its end.
    Records of weather patterns, drought, floods in Australia do not go back far enough to give definitive details of what this country’s weather patterns etc have been over millennia.
    For you to claim global warming on every major weather incident is not only offensive it proves without a doubt you are scare mongering.
    Your own actions and comments have lost you a firm supporter.

  7. Marianne I suggest you follow the link on the original post to our detailed 5 page submission which carefully analysed shortcomings in regional forecasting models and correctly anticipated the nature, scale and timing of the recent flood.

    • Marianne Melnikas

      Your submission does nothing for me! When the usual weather patterns for the time of year are linked to climate change it makes me want to throw up!!
      We have only been keeping information on our weather for such a short a blink of the eye in the greater scale of things. Yet there are those who believe they know everything about the happenings of the past of this planet that theirs is the only opinion to be considered.
      I can tell you, climate change has been happening since the earth came to life. Humans make a very small impact, volcanoes put more pollution into the atmosphere than all the people on this planet.
      When you get real and start to question sending rockets into space, which disrupts and causes damage to the ozone layer, airplanes spewing jet fuel into the upper atmosphere then you may hold a little credibility.
      Jumping up and down over fossil fuels is stupidity, what a waste of land to be setting up field after field of solar panels. What is the life span of these, what carcinogens do these panels contain, is there a safe way in which to dispose of them.
      Up to date equipment producing electricity burn fossil fuels and put less rubbish into the atmosphere.
      You are just on a bloody band wagon and it is disgusting to scaremonger in the manner which you are.
      I have read lots of information (scientific) from all sides and I am able to cut through the self serving piffle of those just wanting to keep their jobs alive to know where the truth really lies.

      • Marriane
        Volcanoes emit less than 1% of the amount of annual human greenhouse emissions. They simply cannot compare to the 45 Billion Metric tonnes CO2E from millions of smoke stacks and billions of exhaust pipes. The current rate of global warming is 100 times faster than any previous period.Of course humans and most mammals are not adapted for this type of change. When you are ready to move past denial I suggest you look into global ground water reserves, methane clathrates and threshold temperatures for key crops. In the meantime only facts will be approved for posting.

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