WHEN natural disaster strikes, the people of the Upper Hunter look to emergency services for help.
And, thanks to a decade of studies and plans by Upper Hunter Shire Council, Aberdeen will soon have a more effective flood warning system.
Council was successful in a grant application to the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) to help fund the new system.
It will be funded by $62,718 from OEH and $31,359 from council, allocated in the 2016/17 budget.
“Flooding of the Hunter River at Aberdeen has far reaching implications not only for the residents and businesses of Aberdeen but also downstream areas such as Muswellbrook and anyone using the New England Highway or the Great Northern Railway Line,” Upper Hunter Shire Mayor Wayne Bedggood said.
“The Aberdeen Flood Warning System will provide the Bureau of Meteorology (Bureau) with more timely river and rainfall information to predict flood levels and issue flood warnings for Aberdeen.
“It will enable the SES to implement local emergency response measures including local flood advice and evacuations.
“The project will expand and modernise the existing rivers and rainfall gauging network. Information from the gauges will be automatically sent to the Bureau and the SES, enabling extension of the Bureau’s riverine flood warning service to Aberdeen.
Council will also fund the ongoing operation and maintenance of the additional monitoring sites.
The latest rainfall and river level readings will be available on the Bureau’s web site (www.bom.gov.au).
Council is managing this project in consultation with relevant agencies: the Bureau, NSW Department of Primary Industries (Water), SES and OEH.
Implementing the new warning system is the latest stage in council’s long term planning to manage flooding in Aberdeen.
Flooding has been a significant factor in the development of the region with the earliest significant flood recorded in June 1820 and many floods at Aberdeen since, the largest in February 1955 causing considerable damage through the Hunter Valley from Scone to Newcastle.
Since 1955 there have been significant floods in February 1971 and January 1976.
Aberdeen is built on a small rise and large areas of residential, commercial and private and public recreation facilities are inundated.
In 1976 a levee was constructed by the then Water Resources Commission to provide protection for the residential area east of the New England Highway.
This levee would be overtopped in floods of the magnitude of February 1955 or greater.
Council’s Aberdeen Flood Study (2013) indicated that floodwaters could overtop the town levee on the southern bank of the Hunter River and inundate a large number of properties and houses.
In large floods the entire floodplain will be inundated by up to two to three metres, causing considerable damage to agricultural activities and public facilities such as roads, bridges and the water supply and other rural floodplain users.
The lower parts of the township of Aberdeen would also be inundated causing damages to buildings and vehicles and with significant risk to life.
Council’s Aberdeen Floodplain Risk Management Plan (2015) found up to 250 residents may require evacuation during a major flood event with a significant number being older people.
Large numbers of dwellings located behind the levee have escape routes which are cut off by high hazard flooding.
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