Related - Floodplain Manager March 2019

Veronica Dumps a Year's Rain in 12 Hours

Cyclone Veronica brought heavy rainfall and damaging winds to the Pilbara Coast, WA in late March.

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Heavy rains associated with the category three system dumped more than 300 mm of rain in 12 hours on March 25 at Upper North Pole, which is above the annual average rainfall of 290 mm. The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) predicted storm surges of two to five metres on top of the highest astronomical tide. However, these surges were most severe between Karratha and Port Hedland where there was no station to record storm surge heights.   Veronica’s formation which had the bulk of the heavy rain trailing behind the cyclone was described as an “unusual phenomenon”.  Heavy rainfall associated with Cyclone Veronica caused the De Grey River to reach major flood level resulting in severe flooding in nearby Boodarie. The Coongan River at Marble Bar Road peaked at approximately 5.2 metres and the Shaw River at Marble Bar Road peaked at approximately 4.7 metres.  Cattle farmers near Port Hedland, who had been experiencing extreme drought, were inundated with more than 448 mm of rain in 72 hours. An estimated loss of at least 1,500 cattle due to flooding of the Pilbara coastal river catchments comes as a devastating blow to already drought affected farmers. Mining analysts predict that iron ore prices will be boosted in the wake of Cyclone Veronica as exports are restricted due to shutdowns (Read here, here, here, here, and here ).

FMA Excellence Awards Nominations about to Close

The deadline for nominations for the Floodplain Management Australia (FMA) Excellence Awards has been extended to 5 April.

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The nation-wide awards publicly recognise the outstanding contribution of FMA member organisations and individuals. The awards will take into consideration the nominees’ efforts in promoting wise land use planning, reducing flood impacts, managing flood incidents or restoring communities after a flood event. There are two categories: the FMA-NRMA Insurance Flood Risk Management Project of the Year award and the FMA-Allan Ezzy Flood Risk Manager of the Year award. The winner of the Project of the Year award will receive $10,000 towards the continuation of the project. The winners will be announced at the FMA National Conference Dinner in Canberra on 16 May (Read here).

Flood Health Risks

Recent flooding in North and North West Queensland (FM Feb 2019) has brought to the fore the health risks associated with floodwaters.

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In the wake of flooding, two people have died and several have been hospitalised as a result of melioidosis infections. Dr Julie Mudd of the Townsville Public Health Unit said, “Flooding brings with it long-lasting health effects through exposure to environmental bacterium in mud and polluted surface water, such as melioidosis and leptospirosis, as well as vector borne diseases with standing water acting as breeding sites for mosquitoes….Our messaging from day one was about avoid contact with flood waters where possible and cleaning and covering any wounds. This was followed by an increase in infections, particularly wound infections, with both common and exotic tropical or waterborne bacteria. These included Staph and Strep infections, Pseudomonas and Aeromonas and Burkholderia pseudomallei (melioidosis)” (Read here).

Townsville Flood Highlights Lack of Preparedness

Post event reviews of the Townsville floods (FM Feb 2019) have revealed a lack of preparedness within the community.

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A survey of 500 people by James Cook University has shown that 80% of people surveyed in Townsville said that they received advice to evacuate, but only half of those chose to do so. Additionally, greater than 60% of respondents said they possessed a disaster kit but not an evacuation plan.

Another observation was the lack of insurance, with one in four respondents stating that they had no household or contents insurance. Cecelia Bischeri, a lecturer in architecture at Griffith University, has observed, “When the flooded land is actually larger than the area marked by the flood overlay map, complications emerge. In fact, that part of the community living outside the map’s boundaries is considered flood-free. Thus, those pockets of the community may have chosen not to have flood insurance and not have an emergency plan, which leaves them even worse off after floods. This is happening in Townsville” (Read here, here, and here).

Floodwaters Refresh Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre

The widespread rainfall in Queenland in January and February (FM Feb 2019) is filling Australia’s largest lake.

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While much of the record breaking rainfall in far north Queensland emptied into the ocean, some drained into the Australia’s lowest natural point – the Lake Eyre basin. By the end of February, water captured in the Diamantina River recorded a peak river level of 8.15 m at Birdsville. Early March saw floodwaters reaching Goyder Lagoon and flowing into Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre at a velocity of 2-3 km/h in some areas. The presence of water in the usually dry and arid landscape has seen the arrival of several migratory bird species, and the proposal of a four-day sailing regatta (Read here and here ).

Law Permitting Flooding Didn't Follow Due Process

A UNESCO advisory panel has warned that legislation passed by the NSW government in 2018 to facilitate flood mitigation preceded a full cultural heritage assessment and could endanger indigenous cultural values.

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A plan to raise the Warragamba Dam wall by 14 m, which would allow floodwaters to be detained in the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains area, has sparked criticism from the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS).  ICOMOS argued that legislation shouldn’t have been proposed without finalisation of the Commonwealth’s cultural values assessment. ICOMOS claims the proposal could result in the flooding of thousands of hectares of World Heritage Area and national park land.  It stated that the original filling of the dam for Sydney’s water supply had decimated countless cultural sites in the 1960’s.  ICOMOS recommends that concern for remnant indigenous cultural sites should be put on the agenda of the World Heritage Centre at its 2019 meeting in Azerbaijan. The NSW Government countered that increasing the dam wall height is necessary to reduce flood risk in the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley (Read here).

Human Factors Mostly Responsible for Dam Failures

A paper published in association with Dam Failures has discussed how recognition and understanding of “human factors” can prevent dam failures.

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Human factors such as ignorance, complacency and overconfidence can lead to inadequate risk management in the design, construction, and monitoring stages of dam projects and may ultimately result in failure. By recognising human factors, companies and organisations may follow best practices organised into two categories: general design and construction features of dam projects, and organisational and professional practices in order to mitigate failure. (Read more here).

Climate Experts Urge Governments to Act Against Climate Change

As the world rapidly approaches the 2oC global warming threshold experts are urging governments to act swiftly in response to predicted sea level rise. 

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The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report released on 6 March forecasts a potential cost of four per cent of world annual GDP from the risk of rising oceans on coastal regions. If no urgent preparatory action is taken, governments are likely to face increased liabilities associated with damage to infrastructure, loss of land and displacement of communities. Experts suggest that governments at all levels need to understand, plan for, implement and continuously manage climate risk to alleviate costs associated with rising sea levels (Read more here ).

Beer Fridge Recovered in Flood Clean-up

A beer fridge complete with ice cold beers has been recovered miles downstream after floods in Nebraska.

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Kyle Simpson and a friend came across the fridge whilst assessing damage to Simpson’s property following the Platte River flooding in Nebraska, USA. Photographs of the pair posing with the unlikely flood survivor went viral on social media, where the owner Brian Healey identified his fridge from some tell-tale scorch marks left by a house fire. Simpson plans to reunite the fridge with Healey when water subsides (Read more here).

Training Program Increases Real Estate Agent Flood Risk Awareness

A program has been developed for real estate professionals to increase their awareness about flood zones and flood insurance, and provide the right tools to inform potential buyers.

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The Pinellas County USA flood administrator, Lisa Foster, recognised real estate professionals as having the ideal platform to educate residents about flood risks.  As part of the customised Pinellas County Program for Public Information (PPI), Foster and her team developed the Pinellas County Flood Map Service Centre tool which is available to anyone in the community. A specific section is dedicated to real estate professionals to identify properties that are in the FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Map high-risk flood zone, susceptible to flooding, exempt from insurance, and under specific evacuation zoning. In conjunction with the development of these tools, two classes per year are provided to train estate agents in the use of Foster’s programs. It is hoped that by increasing real estate agents’ knowledge and awareness of flood risks, that they may become credible sources of information and advice for potential buyers (Read more here).

Reducing Flood Disadvantage

A paper published in Regional Environmental Change identifies flood disadvantage as a dimension that should be considered when making flood risk management decisions.

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In the past, flood risk management has been based on mapping, modelling and addressing flood exposure with little consideration for flood disadvantage. The devastating social, economic and health consequences of floods are often exacerbated in already vulnerable communities. The paper suggests that understanding the compounding nature of floods on those who are already disadvantaged is pivotal to attain “just” flood risk management practices (Read more here).

Role-Playing Game for Crisis Decision-Making

A role-playing game designed to investigate crisis decision-making and communication challenges in weather-related hazards has been tested in scientific workshops in Finland and France.

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Developers used the role playing game known as ANYCaRE to explore how decision makers and stakeholders interact with scientific and operational outputs to better anticipate and respond to extreme and high-impact weather and climate events. Results indicate that participants valued communication and exchange of knowledge, and that multi-model outputs based on hydro-meteorological reports created a holistic view of impacts and increased their confidence in decision making. Overall, ANYCaRE was a valuable tool when used to enhance participants’ understanding of the complexity of challenges associated with decision making in the event of a weather-related crisis (Read more here).

Mississippi Cities Swap Sandbags for Marshes

Several towns along the Mississippi River are opting to let the river reconnect with its old floodplain.

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In Grafton, Illinois, the decision has been made to allow floodwaters to envelope low-lying uninhabited areas of the city. In light of more frequent and severe flooding events, towns along the Mississippi have opted to reconstruct wetlands and marshes in areas once the subject of dredging. It is hoped that this re-wilding method will trap sediment, slow water, and provide habitat for wetland flora and fauna (Read more here).

2.5 Million Tokyoites Would Need to Evacuate in a Major Flood

If a super typhoon hits the Tokyo metropolitan area, designated evacuation centres cannot accommodate the 2.5 million evacuees who would need to flee the flooding it caused.

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Based on the scenario that Tokyo’s major rivers, the Arakawa and Edogawa, are severely flooded, there is only likely to be enough accommodation at designated evacuation centres to accommodate one third of the 2.5 million evacuees. As a result, the Central and Tokyo metropolitan governments aim to estimate how many Tokyo residents may be able to evacuate to nearby prefectures, such as Chiba and Saitama, while also asking companies and private facilities to accept evacuees. A resolution to the capacity shortage is predicted to be reached by March 2020 (Read more here).

Revolutionising Flood Height Estimation

NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey (NGS) is surveying the gravity field of the US to update the nation’s vertical datum by 2022.

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Accuracy in ground heights is pivotal for informing house elevation, creating flood zone maps, and coastal development planning. Although current elevation measures are adequate, in more serious circumstances, a more accurate measure is required. Scientists at NGS are redefining vertical datum in the US by measuring geopotential which will allow the calculation of heights within a margin of 25 mm. It is estimated that this data will allow savings of $2.2 billion in improved floodplain management alone (Read more here).

International Floods

There were 22 international floods reported across 16 countries throughout March 2019. At least 977 people died and over 15,000 were displaced.

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Internationally significant floods included:

Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe

Widespread flooding in the wake of Cyclone Idai has left thousands affected in regions of Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. Flood waters were reported to have reached six metres depth in vast areas of Mozambique where 500 people have been killed. In Zimbabwe, the death toll is thought to be 200 with 327 people still missing. Flooding and landslides have affected some 270,000 people with the majority of those being in the Chimanimani and Chipinge districts. In Malawi, 59 deaths were reported with one of the worst affected cities of Makhanga being cut off from all road access by flood waters. The category three cyclone which lasted from 11 to 14 March sustained high winds of up to 175 km/h and heavy rainfall of up to 400 mm in some areas (Read more here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).

Afghanistan
Heavy rainfall has triggered severe flooding in Afghanistan including nine previously drought stricken districts killing 70 people. An estimated 16,000 houses have been swept away by floodwaters caused by heavy rainfall of up to 97 mm in just 30 hours. Approximately 20 people have died in the Kandahar Province when houses collapsed and vehicles were swept away (Read more here and here).

Pakistan
In Pakistan, heavy rain has caused flash flooding which left 1,500 families in need of rescue in the Lasbela and Qillah Abdulla districts and an estimated 25 fatalities (Read more here and here).

Iran
In Iran, 21 people were killed in the city of Shiraz as a result of unprecedented flooding in a region which had been battling decades of drought  (Read more here and here).

Indonesia

At least 77 people have been killed and 4,000 displaced by flash floods in Indonesia’s eastern Papua province. Nearly 200 mm of rain fell in 24 hours triggering widespread flooding and landslides in the Sentani District, Jayapura Regency, Papua Province. Emergency services struggled to access worst affected areas due to rocks, mud and fallen trees (Read more here and here).

Diary

2019 Floodplain Management Australia Conference
Canberra, ACT
14 - 17 May, 20197
website

ASFPM 43rd Annual National Conference
Cleveland, Ohio
19 - 23 May, 2019
website

Deadline for FMA Excellence Awards Extended
The awards will now close on Friday 5 April, 2019 at 11:59pm
For more information visit website

Seminar: Using Australian Water Resource Assessment (AWRA-L) model for catchment conditions
Hosted by: Sydney Division Water Engineering Panel
When: 8 April, 2019 - 05:30 pm to 07:30 pm
Venue: Bureau of Meteorology- Level 15 300 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills, New South Wales
Registration: Closes 8 April, 2019 10:00 am website

Resources

Climate-ready planning laws
The NSW Environment Defenders Office (EDO) has produced reports which make recommendations for planning law reform with a focus on reducing emissions, managing climate risk and protecting assets (Click here).

Planning for Flooding and Coastal Risk Over the Next 50 Years
The UK Environment Agency has published a report outlining where funding should be allocated to reduce the effects of future flood scenarios based on climate change, population and mapping data (Website).