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FLOODS: Seymour experiences worst flooding on record, but levels are falling

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UPDATE: Emergency services don’t expect flood levels to exceed this morning’s peak of 8.37m in Seymour, despite more water being released from Lake Eildon.

Major flood levels, 7.0m, are expected to remain steady into the weekend, as water makes its way down the Goulburn River through Seymour.

Many residents were concerned about more flooding in coming days because of the water release from Lake Eildon.

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Currently there is 288 properties affected, with 263 flooded above floor level

The State Emergency Services, SES, has issued an updated emergency warning for the Goulburn River, from Seymour to Lake Eildon. There is already major flooding occurring along this section of the Goulburn River, currently at 4.96 metres and steady, and likely to remain about this height today.

Flood levels of 8.37m peaked at about 3am, causing major flooding in Seymour, above the record flood from May 1974 of 7.64 metres.

It is currently at 7.52 metres and falling.

“River levels will remain high as water from the upper Goulburn arrives, but flood levels are not expected to exceed the peak on Friday morning,” SES warned.

“At 8.37m, this flood is regarded as a one per cent flood, which means there is a one per cent chance of a flood this size or larger occurring in any given year.

“This flood has exceeded the levels recorded in the May 1974 flood, which reached a height of 7.64m. 

“At this height, 187 homes and businesses were affected with flooding above the height of floor level. There were 279 homes and businesses that become isolated by flooding due to roads and property flooding.

“At the major flood level, 7.0m, Kings Park flooded and Goulburn Valley Highway closed between Seymour Toyota and Redbank Road. 

“In 1993, when the river reached a height of 6.65m, at least five houses in Butler and Emily Streets were flooded above the height of floor level.

“Properties in Edward, Emily, Hanna, Tierney, Alexander, High, Tallarook and Wallace streets also become isolated and surrounding areas were flooded.”

Major flooding is expected at Murchison from tonight and at Shepparton late Saturday morning.

William Street, Seymour

Government assistance

The State Government is making emergency relief payments available now to flood victims for immediate household and essential needs.

Payments of up to $2030 per eligible family, including $580 per adult and $290 per child, are available through a one-off payment to help buy food, shelter, clothing and medication.

People can apply at emergencypayments.dffh.vic.gov.au.

Federal Member for Nicholls Sam Birrell has visited Seymour, Rochester and Murchison in the past 24 hours and witnessed firsthand how communities are supporting each other.

Mr Birrell said the flood emergency across the region has demonstrated the true spirit of regional communities.

“Despite the scale of the flood emergency, which is far from over, people are supporting each other, helping to sandbag and providing food and shelter to those who have had to move to higher ground,” he said.

“More than 300 properties have been impacted in Seymour and flood waters are yet to peak at Murchison and Shepparton where the 1974 major flood level could be exceeded. If that occurs an estimated 4,000 properties in Shepparton will be impacted, some above floor level.

“The most important things as this emergency unfolds are to stay safe, help those around you where you can, and continue to monitor emergency information through www.emergency.vic.gov.au

Mr Birrell said he had spoken with Minister for Emergency Management Senator Murray Watt, Opposition leader Peter Dutton and Nationals deputy leader Perin Davey, who had indicated their full support and preparedness to respond appropriately once the full extent of the damage and the recovery task was known.

High Street Seymour.

Seymour Health update

Seymour Health remains in constant contact with the Hume health emergency management lead to act on the latest information regarding the flood situation.

Evacuation plans are in place should action be required.

A Seymour Health spokesperson said the health service was contacted by the SES last night with instructions to evacuate following the evacuation notification.

“However, following further discussions with the Shepparton Emergency Management Incident Control Centre, information provided informed the decision to remain in place, as Seymour Health was not in imminent danger of being flooded,” they said.

Seymour Health remains on close monitoring and alert status with code yellow internal emergency active.

The spokesperson said its flood management plan had been activated, but there was currently no inundation of water to any buildings, except for minor roof leaks.

The hospital rear car park remains closed, the helipad remains surrounded by water on three sides, but is about 1.5m above the water line.

Seymour Health remains on ambulance bypass, due to staffing challenges.

“Staff going above and beyond to ensure safe quality care can continue to be delivered, however staffing challenges do exist with many staff unable to get to work due to road closures,” the spokesperson said.

Theatre, dental, social support group, community services and ambulatory care services have all suspended, and the district nursing service is working with skeleton staff to attend to vulnerable clients in the Seymour area only.

“Plans are in place to ensure dialysis services continue to be delivered,” they said.

Seymour Health had purchased bottled drinking water to prepare if Seymour water supplies become contaminated, however discussions with GVWater suggest it is ‘very unlikely to happen’.

The health service has sufficient supplies, food, equipment for an extended period of time, and all Seymour Health vehicles have been moved to higher ground.

“Despite being an exceptionally busy time, the Seymour Health team has pulled together as always and we feel we are well positioned to deal with the situation,” the spokesperson said.

Tristan Street, Seymour, looking towards Wallis Street.

EARLIER:

Mitchell and Macedon Ranges Shire residents are counting the cost of severe flooding that swept the region on Thursday, while some prepare for more rain today. 

Seymour saw its worst flooding in decades, with the Goulburn River peaking at 8.26 metres overnight according to VICSES Seymour unit controller Christine Welsh. 

More than 300 properties have been flooded in Seymour.

Major streets impacted in Seymour include Emily Street, Tallarook Street, Wallis Street, High Street and a section of Station Street.

Many businesses have been inundated, as well as homes, and Kings Park.

Ms Welsh said the unit had responded to more than 200 incidents since rain set in on Wednesday afternoon, distributing about 120 tonnes of sandbags to Seymour resident and businesses. 

“Since Wednesday afternoon we’ve responded to 208 incidents, including a range of sandbagging requests, flooding, potential to flood, people trapped in flood water road rescues – pretty much everything,” she said. 

“On Wednesday we opened a sandbag collection point in Seymour and just one Wednesday afternoon gave out more than 800 sandbags. After that we lost count, but we know that 120 tonnes of sandbags were given out over the course of Wednesday and Thursday. 

“The floodwaters peaked at 8.26 metres, which is well above what it has been in a very long time. Probably 1974 was the last time we saw something like this.” 

Ms Welsh said as of Friday morning, only one road in and out of Seymour remained viable. She warned people to drive only if necessary and never to drive through floodwaters. 

“Being that there is so much floodwater in and around Seymour at the moment, we’ve really only got one way in and out, which is Redbank Road. Emily Street is cut off completely, and Wallis Street, High Street and most other streets are inundated completely and not passable,” she said. 

“I would encourage people to only drive if you need to and do not drive through floodwater – it’s not safe. It puts you at risk, and it puts our lives at risk at well having to come and save you.”

Ms Welsh said the SES worked alongside Victoria Police search and rescue squad members to ferry people trapped by floodwaters to safety. 

State authorities issued an evacuation notice for Seymour on Thursday evening, but Ms Welsh said some people elected to stay at their properties before becoming trapped. 

“There are no serious injuries. It was mainly people who were trapped in their houses. Most of them had been doorknocked and told that water was coming, but a lot had chosen to stay,” she said. 

“When the water rose, no one expected it to rise as high as they did, and they ended up needing assistance to get out. 

“We had Victoria Police up to assist with evacuations, as well as Shepparton search and rescue who brought their boat and we had members out with them taking people in the boat to dry land.” 

Ms Welsh praised the interagency cooperation between the SES, Victoria Police, Country Fire Authority and Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning workers throughout the crisis. 

“Yesterday we had a fabulous team of Seymour CFA and Hilldene CFA mixed in with a good number of DELWP guys who showed up, and they were kept flat out [shovelling sandbags],” she said. 

“We had a drive-through system where residents could come and pick up sandbags. As fast as the guys were filling them, they were being loaded into cars. 

“The CFA guys were also taking most of the jobs with trees down so that we could focus on the flooding side of things. 

“The ability of all agencies to work together was fabulous and it really couldn’t have gone better. We wouldn’t have got through the night without their help, so it was really appreciated.” 

Mitchell Shire Council has set up a relief centre at Seymour Sports and Aquatic Centre on Pollard Street, with toilets, showers, emergency accommodation and basic food available for those who require it. 

Seymour Health has advised that it has not had to evacuate patients or residents of Barrabill House.

“We are taking advice from authorities and continue to monitor the situation to ensure the safety of patients, residents and staff.

The health service has asked that people not visit the hospital at this time.

The following services will be closed today: ambulatory care centre; pre-admission clinic; operating theatre; COVID-10 testing clinic; social support group; dental services; Austin Pathology; I-Med Radiology.

Damage to Bidstrups Bridge at Sugarloaf Creek, north of Broadford. Video: Jo Coulthard

Since 9am on Wednesday Seymour has recorded more than 140mm of rain according to the Bureau of Meteorology. 

Also inundated were parts of towns such as Broadford, Lancefield, Romsey and Kilmore, with the bureau’s Kilmore Gap observation station recording 94mm for the region in the same period.

On Thursday many Review readers shared photos and accounts of flooding in their towns, with events across the region cancelled. 

Many schools also shut their doors or encouraged parents to pick up their children early. 

Schools closed across the region today include primary and secondary schools and kindergartens in Seymour, Broadford, Kilmore, Puckapunyal and Wallan.

Watch and acts notices remain in place for the Goulburn River north of Seymour and for Sunday Creek, which flows through Tallarook and Broadford.

An emergency warning is still in place for Seymour and the Goulburn River from Seymour to Eildon.

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