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Ballarat, Creswick clean up after heavy rain, but more storms expected today

Thursday January 6, 2022 - 04:08 AEDT
ABC image
Water pooling on the side of the Sunraysia Highway at Lexton after heavy rainfall. - ABC

Emergency crews are on alert for more damaging storms today after heavy rainfall yesterday caused flash flooding around Ballarat and surrounding towns.

Meanwhile, in the far east of the state hundreds of campers had to be evacuated when creeks and rivers flooded, causing damage that could take months to repair.

Overnight, the SES responded to several calls for help, including requests for sandbags.

SES state duty officer Gerry Sheridan said crews were out all night and more calls were anticipated this morning as people found property damage.

A relief centre has been set up in Creswick at Doug Lindsay Reserve, and Mr Sheridan said he expected the few residents who relocated there last night would be able to return to their homes this morning.

Properties in Creswick, Waubra, Beaufort and parts of Ballarat remained without power well into the afternoon.

Powercor spokeswoman Emma Tyner said text messages would be sent to customers with estimated restoration updates.

She said, however, with further storms expected today, more outages were possible and advised customers to plan ahead.

Rain falls hard and fast

At 3pm yesterday, Ballarat had recorded 1 millimetre of rain but that jumped to 10.4 mm within half an hour.

The city recorded almost 47mm for the entire day, most of it falling within four hours, but towns to the north received far more.

"The highest total in the Ballarat, Creswick area was at Wilson Reservoir which had 102mm ? 56mm recorded [there] in the 30 minutes to 5pm," BOM duty forecaster Miriam Bradbury said.

Other totals included 40mm at Lal Lal and 25mm at Mount Buninyong.

"As well as this heavy, intense rainfall that led to the flash flooding, also this storm produced some reasonably large hail," Ms Bradbury added.

"We had some reports of four-centimetre hail at Creswick."

Property owners begin cleaning up

Brendan Jeffrey, owner of Brenlissa Online Nursery in Creswick, sustained damage to the shade structures that protect his plants, which he said would temporarily put his business out of action.

Mr Jeffrey spent about two hours stuck in his car during the worst of the wind, hail and "crazy lightning".

"I was bit worried about running to the house because there seemed to be lightning everywhere," he said.

"Every time I looked at the radar, there seemed to be a black spot right on Creswick, so it was pretty horrendous here for a couple of hours."

Phil Tagliabue travelled from his home in Geelong to survey the damage to the three shopfronts he leases out.

At the southern entrance to the township, thick hail still blanketed the roadsides the day after the storm, which Mr Tagliabue said he'd never seen in the 36 years he's owned property in Creswick.

Mr Tagliabue said he was "probably a little relieved" the damage was "nothing we can't recover from".

"I was driving up today prepared for the worst."

Clean-up efforts were well under way this morning in the town's main centre.

"I heard a few people going around asking if they could help people and all that, so hopefully there's a bit of good left in the world," Mr Tagliabue said.

Campers evacuated as creeks flood

In far-eastern Victoria hundreds of campers were evacuated from a caravan park in Omeo, when a creek burst its banks.

Omeo received 114 mm of rain in the 24 hours to 9am this morning, with nearby Mount Hotham recording 114mm.

There are minor flood warnings for the Snowy, Tambo and Nicholson rivers and a moderate flood warning for the Mitta Mitta River.

The owners of the Omeo caravan park, Sandi Beltrame and her partner Lou, evacuated more than 100 guests after the nearby Livingston Creek burst its banks and flooded the entire park, including its cabins.

"(At) 11 o'clock last night we had the SES [and] the police evacuating everybody because we were knee deep in water on the highest point of the path, which is the road," Ms Beltrame said.

"I think we're going to be closed for a little while now, it's six inches deep in mud, and rubbish, it's amazing how much damage it's done this time."

She said it has been a hard two years for the business, which will now miss much of its summer holiday bookings as they clean up.

The latest setback comes after the business lost an entire summer two years ago when bushfires threatened the region, followed by two years of COVID lockdowns.

Nearby Ensay farmer Tom Morgan, who lives along the Tambo River which received about 115 millimetres in the last 24 hours, said he'd never seen that much rain in one day.

He is worried if the region gets more rain the major rivers could flood towns downstream.

"Earlier this morning before daylight I rang a couple of mates in Bruthen just to let them know, because it takes about eight hours for the floodwater from here to reach them," he said.

Steve Pearman who lives between Swifts Creek and Omeo at Cassilis reported about 140 mm of rain and is stuck at his property until he and his neighbours are able to clear the debris on roads and flooded creeks subside.

"There's extensive damage from the floodwater; there are mountains of debris against fences, large trees have come down," he said.

At least a dozen roads remain closed in East Gippsland because of flooding from Anglers Rest to Orbost.

More wild weather on the way

Similar conditions are expected today, with warmer temperatures, humidity and a potential for large storms.

The SES is urging people to stay away from the Grampians while tourists already there are advised to stay indoors, with 100 mm of rain forecast for the area in coming hours.

The approaching storm weather is already causing major concerns for emergency services working to rescue two people reportedly teetering on a cliff edge in the Grampians National Park.

Mr Sheridan advised people to heed any emergency warnings and drive to conditions.

"We had a number of rescues yesterday again of people stuck in floodwaters," he said.

"We want to make sure people don't drive through floodwaters."

Most calls for help yesterday related to flooding of property, he said.

"[It's] the usual, gutters get blocked due to dry weather with all the leaves and debris and that builds up and blocks the drains, which causes flooding to their houses," he said.


© ABC 2022

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