1 October 2022

'We're expecting the worst': SES prepared for anything this storm season

| Claire Fenwicke
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SES personnel training

ACT SES volunteers have been training for typical flooding situations which could occur across Canberra this storm season. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

Our already-soaked water tables have authorities warning of a “higher probability” of both riverine and flash flooding this storm season.

ACT State Emergency Services (SES) volunteers have been training for the past six months to prepare for the expected rise in severe weather events across the Territory.

Chief Officer Anthony Draheim said the confirmation of a third consecutive La Niña meant more above-average rainfall was on the way.

“For a lot of us, it looks like we’ve been in a storm season for the last 18 months or two years, and that’s the way it feels,” he said.

“[The Bureau of Meteorology has told us] to expect larger, higher, above average rainfall for this next three months, six months.”

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Mr Draheim pointed to a recent Canberra storm that saw hail fall across the northern suburbs to highlight just how saturated our soils were.

“Just on that small amount of rain itself, we had a number of road closures, so Oaks Estate, for example, was closed, and it usually takes a lot more for that to be closed,” he said.

“What we’re seeing now … is that it only takes a little bit of water, a little bit of rain, for the impact to be worse than it has been in the past.”

While they could never fully predict what the weather could bring, Mr Draheim said volunteers were prepared for any situation.

“We’re expecting the worst,” he said.

“We are prepared, we are ready to support you.”

There are currently 330 SES volunteers in the ACT, with another 92 coming in the New Year.

However, volunteer preparedness was only one piece of the puzzle.

The community also had a part to play in being emergency ready and prepared before the storms gathered on the horizon.

This included downloading a survival plan, clearing out gutters, fixing damage to roofs and checking insurance coverage.

Mr Draheim also used recent events in NSW as a warning not to attempt to cross flood waters.

“Unfortunately, in NSW a couple of weeks ago, a young child lost their life because of people travelling through flood water,” Mr Draheim said.

“Even though you think you might know that road, you don’t. You don’t know what’s underneath that water.

“In a lot of cases, the road could be completely washed away and we don’t know what other debris is on that road as well, be it an animal, road debris or a large tree.”

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Bureau of Meteorology meteorologist Gabrielle Woodhouse also warned wetter than average conditions were forecast for the coming storm season resulting in a “heightened risk” of flooding.

“It’s likely any rainfall that we see will run off much more quickly, and this means you have a much greater risk of seeing flash flooding,” Ms Woodhouse said.

“Flash flooding is very, very dangerous. It can happen in a matter of minutes.

“It’s not confined to just being near river systems and creeks. It can happen pretty much anywhere.”

She reminded the community they could download the Bureau of Meteorology app on their phones to receive notifications when severe weather and thunderstorm warnings were issued.

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