Update 4.45 pm:
The Bureau of Meteorology has advised a 60% chance of rain and thunderstorms for some parts of the Central Highlands tonight (17 March).
Council wishes to advise the residents and visitors of the Sapphire Gemfields that the situation is being closely monitored.
In the event that flooding is likely, you will receive a warning SMS if you are registered to receive them, the ABC radio will broadcast warnings, the State Emergency Service will be available to assist with evacuation, and the warning sirens will be activated.
Important telephone numbers:
- 132 500 for SES assistance.
- 000 in the event of an emergency.
- 1300 242 686 – Central Highlands Regional Council 24/7
In response to questions about why the early warning sirens weren’t activated last night, Mayor Kerry Hayes said it was due to the rapid nature of the rainfall.
‘The early warning system in the Sapphire Gemfields is just one of the methods that can be utilised to alert the community in a flooding event,’ he said.
‘This is a new system, and last night was its first true test since being installed.
‘Due to the rapid nature of the rainfall, the window in which the sirens could have been activated was small.
‘By the time information was received from gauges in the catchment area, the river was already close to peaking.’
Mayor Hayes said an emergency SMS alert was issued to local residents by the Bureau of Meteorology and emergency services were also already on the scene.
‘The decision was therefore made not to activate the sirens so as not to cause further confusion,’ he said.
‘We have multiple mechanisms in place to protect our communities in these types of situations and this is exactly why.
‘This is a great learning opportunity and we are grateful to our community for their cooperation and swift action.’
Update 2.00 pm:
More than 200 mm of rain fell in the catchment surrounding the tourist area of Sapphire Gemfields overnight causing major flooding around the area.
Central Highlands Regional Council Mayor Kerry Hayes said Retreat Creek between the Capricorn Highway and the town of Sapphire peaked at 9.8 metres early this morning.
‘The SES conducted one swift-water rescue, however, I have been advised that everyone is safe,’ the mayor said.
‘At this stage, we have to wait until the water recedes enough to get into the area to inspect the situation, which I do not expect to be for at least a couple of hours.
‘The Bureau of Meteorology is expecting more rain to fall in the area this evening, so we urge anyone in the area to stay tuned to the local ABC radio for updates and follow instructions from emergency services personnel.
‘As always, “If it’s flooded forget it”, don’t drive through flood water,’ he said.
Further information can be found on council’s emergency management dashboard.