Local flood wisdom proven as best

EXTENSIVE local knowledge spread along the grapevine by long-term residents was what minimised impacts of late December flooding in Alpha and Jericho, the Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry heard yesterday in Emerald.

Alpha police Sergeant James Raymond Kelly told the commission the community response was outstanding in preparation for the flood and recovery, with many residents having been through similar events in 1990, and on the whole, most knew what to expect and do.

Sgt Kelly found himself in charge of events in both Alpha and Jericho during the floods, as the Jericho officer-in-charge was on recreational leave at the time, he told the commission.

He oversaw evacuations that left 25 people sleeping in the Jericho Town Hall and more than 40 in the Alpha Golf Club for a number of days while they waited for water to recede and electrical safety checks to be completed.

He said properties in Alpha and Jericho did not change hands much, resulting in residents possessing past experiences and a wealth of local knowledge.

He told the commission he was concerned that numerous travellers ignored road closed signs along the Capricorn Highway, and said Alpha police managed to intercept at least 15 travellers doing so during the flood crisis.

Due to Alpha being a town run on septic tanks, he told the commission of the fear of possible water contamination, which resulted in residents not being allowed to return home until water had completely receded.

Sgt Kelly highlighted dwindling State Emergency Services volunteer numbers in Jericho as an issue, which at this point in time, has no official members.

Barcaldine local disaster management co-ordinator Des Howard also gave evidence at the inquiry and reiterated saying Jericho SES equipment was “basic” containing an “old style flood boat with an unreliable motor” unsuitable for operations.

He said it was difficult to train new flood boat officers as many candidates lived hundreds of kilometres apart and would be required on a number of consecutive weekends.

Sgt Kelly said the area would benefit from more automated river gauging stations along the various creeks that flow into the Jordan and Alpha creeks.

He said he knew of one person who “uses an old gumtree that never comes down” to report river heights.

He added that some property holders with manual gauging stations were away during the recent floods.

Mr Howard said the Barcaldine Regional Council was applying to the Bureau of Meteorology to fund more gauging stations as they had done in the past.

He said work was continuing on a plan to build a levee on the outskirts of Jericho that would effectively “keep the town dry” in future flooding events of the same nature.

Both agreed that the local knowledge given in the lead-up was accurate.

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