From fire threats to floods, 2021 poses new challenges

January 21, 2021 BY

Members of the Lorne SES unit completed Road Crash Rescue training ahead of the wild weather which has resulted in damage across the region. PHOTO: SES LORNE UNIT

LA NINA weather patterns are bringing a stark contrast to the fear of bushfires that threatened the Great Ocean Road this time last year.

Over the New Year period in 2019 Lorne’s Falls Festival was cancelled after one day due to fears that the hot, dry and windy weather conditions would fuel a bushfire.

Fast forward to early 2021, and areas including Cumberland and Wye River have reported flooding as a result of heavy downpours.

Lorne SES Unit Controller Geoff Bird said the early 2021 wild weather was very different to last year but danger still persists.

“We knew there was going to be big rainfall events, flooding, landslides and damage but we probably didn’t expect it to be as wild as what it has been,” he said.

After witnessing such diverse conditions in a short period of time Mr Bird said there were some benefits to a wet summer.

“Rainfall is always appreciated, it is nice to see the Otways so green this time of year and the reduced fire risk is a good outcome for people living here,” he said.

Parts of the Otway Ranges have experienced the highest rainfall since 2012, which was during the last La Nina weather event.

“With the rain arriving in such intense bursts it leads to events where people camping and bush walking really need to be aware,” Mr Bird said.

Last week Lorne SES volunteers, along with Torquay and Colac units, were called to the Cumberland River Holiday Park where cars became submerged in water.

Volunteers assisted campers by moving their tents to safety while monitoring the water and appropriate emergency exits.

In other parts of the region road closures were seen throughout Skenes Creek as a result of rising flood waters.

“We knew it was going to rain but we weren’t certain how intense it would be,” he said.

Mr Bird said the rivers along the Otways are short, meaning they can fill up rapidly but levels subside not long after as the water is washed out.

“Often you need to be watching the weather fairly carefully if you are camping or walking in the area,” he said.

“People need to keep an eye on the weather forecast especially in the event of rain so that they can act accordingly.”

Despite last year’s fire threat, the Great Ocean Road managed to escape disaster with Mr Bird admitting this summer season has proven to be much busier for the small unit.

“We are a pretty small group of only 10 volunteers and our workload has been quite high in the last month,” he said.

Despite the heavy workload Mr Bird said he enjoys the comradery and being able to help the community in stressful times.

“If you would like to help your community and take a more active role the SES offers a variety of pathways,” he said.

“From team member, radio operator through to admin, you can certainly get all sorts of qualifications while working with a well-trained team and helping people cope with rapidly changing events and decision making.”

The Lorne SES is currently looking for volunteers, For inquiries contact 1300 842 737 and select option two to be referred to a Lorne representative.