Charlton prepares for floodwater

AT A GLANCE

Charlton calls itself  “the friendly river town", of Victoria.

It straddles of Avoca River, north-west of Bendigo, and is under threat from the that very river.

A town meeting today was told a task force and many volunteers were in town to help as floodwater threatens the town. 

Since last night, the upstream gauge has peaked and locals say water has dropped slightly. 

The timeframe has come forward and the river will continue to rise and possibly peak at 11pm and into tomorrow. Water will start to fall later tomorrow and the following days.

Emergency services are planning for higher water levels, but not expecting something as big as the September 2010 event.

The gathering was told authorities are keeping an eye on the St Arnaud Road and if something more needed to be done, council would be notified.

SES says “rest when you can, it could be a long night’’.

“It’s really important you look after yourselves, look after your mates, look after anyone else you know is going to need a hand.’’

Residents were advised to take personal papers with them if they need to leave their properties, check their insurance premiums and ensure they have the appropriate insurance cover.

Victoria Police has a full police contingent in Charlton today and through the night.

Residents were told Powercor is working hard to ensure power will be restored as soon as possible.

The meeting heard the lack of power was affecting online communication issues and residents needed to be able to charge mobile phones to continue to receive important text messages.

Power boards will be set up in the hall for people to charge phones, but there will be limited capacity.

Emergency vehicles with loud speakers will be sent through the streets if urgent communication becomes necessary.

State MP Louise Staley addressed the gathering and thanked emergency services and volunteers.

She said the first thing she learnt about Charlton was about floods, and encouraged residents to listen to the advice they were being given and heed the warnings.

“If you have any difficulty at all with accessing state government services, please do not hesitate to contact my office – but I hope you don’t need to contact me,’’ she says.

“Stay safe everybody.’’

UPDATE 1pm: A town meeting is about to get underway in Charlton. 

UPDATE 12.40pm: Police have been door knocking houses on Rutherford, Halliday and Grieves streets in Charlton, advising residents to make preparations for rising floodwaters.

Charlton resident Chris Livington, whose parents live on Grieves Street, said they were expecting the water to reach about one foot in height.

“We’ve just been sandbagging their doors and the entrances to the property,” she said.

“The problem is finding out just what’s going to happen. It was meant to peak at lunchtime today, but now it’s lunchtime tomorrow.

“We’ve also been told the power will be back at 6.30pm, but that’s changed a few times too.”

Next door neighbour Ken Lugton moved to Charlton just months after the last floods in 2011.

He said the watermarks were still on the walls when he moved in, so he knows what to expect in the worst case scenario.

“I knew what I was in for when I moved here,” Mr Lugton said.

“If the water peaks at 7.5 metres, like they expect, then my house should be fine. If it gets to 7.9 metres, then it will be 100 millimetres below my shed level.

“I haven’t moved anything yet. I don’t expect I will have to.”

The water is expected to rise from the stormwater drains in Charlton’s main street later today or in the evening, and could threaten some businesses.

Another Grieves Street resident said the 2011 floods cleared out the channels leading into the town, meaning the water flows much better now.

A town meeting is planned for 1pm at the Charlton Shire Hall on Armstrong Street. The SES provided an update to the media at midday.

UPDATE 12.15pm:  The SES is addressing media in Charlton. They say Charlton is still without power but Powercor has advised it should be restored by nightfall. 

In the meantime, some local businesses are helping out with generators.

There have been no forced evacuations as yet. Most residents have been through this before and everyone ‘is working together to help each other out’.

Forecasts suggest the impact will be ‘a bit below’ that experienced in September, 2010.

“It’s a bit hard to predict exactly where the water is going to come through,’’ SES commander Cameron Arnel says.

The SES is planning for a one in 10 year event. 

The SES and Victoria Police are currently door-knocking homes to advise of the latest information.

Charlton residents are worried the Avoca River will continue to rise throughout today and inundate homes, as sandbagging continues in earnest.

Despite the concern, most are confident the town will avoid the widespread damage caused during the 2011 flood.

One resident, who lives just north of the main bridge over the Avoca, said she expected the water to run through her house and out to her front veranda.

"It got right up to the veranda in 2011, and I expect that to happen again," she said.

"A lot of people are really worried because of what happened in 2010 and 2011.

"I wouldn't want to live at the southern end of town right now."

The resident said sandbagging had little impact during the floods. Tonnes of sand has been delivered to the town, as utes and trailers continue to be filled with sandbags at the Lizard Roadhouse.

The Charlton Hospital was impacted in the 2011 flood, but it has since been demolished and moved to another part of town, not expected to be inundated.

At the Charlton weir, the water is already past fences and is starting to creep up into the car park.

Bob Shaw, who runs a recycling business on the edge of Charlton, said some works had been done in the last five years to prevent a similar situation to 2011.

His business was completely flooded during the last floods.

"I still haven't been able to clean up since," Mr Shaw said.

The heavy rainfall in recent days is expected to flow from Avoca and through Charlton, and could last several days, some residents fear.

Power outages continue to affect the town ,as well as Wedderburn, St Arnaud, Donald and Boort.

A generator is supplying power to the Charlton hall on Armstrong Street, where a relief centre has been established.

UPDATE 10.30am: A community meeting will be held at 1pm at the Charlton Public Hall in Armstrong Street.

Charlton floods, 2011. For more images of the Charlton floods in 2011, click on the photo.

Charlton floods, 2011. For more images of the Charlton floods in 2011, click on the photo.

Flood waters in Bridgewater are receding. The Incident Control Centre at Bendigo has advised waters peaked at 3am and had since dropped 200 millimetres. 

UPDATE 9.30am: The Avoca River in Charlton has broken its banks, inundated a riverside reserve and appears to be threatening several houses on the north side.

Hundreds of tonnes of sand was delivered to the town on Wednesday night in preparation for the rising waters.

The Calder Highway on the southern approach was also covered with water, but the road remains open.

Nathan Reeves, of Reeves Earthmoving, delivered 200 tonnes of sand to the town overnight.

He said locals were preparing for conditions similar to the floods that inundated the town in 2010.

"A lot of people are worried that it's going to be similar to those levels," he said.

"The shire rang us and asked to deliver the sand.

"It's been dropped off at both ends of town, hopefully it can prevent homes and businesses from being damaged."

Mr Reeves said the conditions were similar to 2010, but did not expect the level of damage experienced in 2011.

An emergency relief centre has been established in Armstrong Street, and a town meeting is expected to be held later in the morning.

UPDATE 9am: A relief centre has opened at the Charlton Public Hall in Armstrong Street this morning.

Charlton floods, 2010. Fore more images of the 2010 floods, click on the photo.

Charlton floods, 2010. Fore more images of the 2010 floods, click on the photo.

The Avoca River is still rising and is expected to peak in the next 24 hours. 

UPDATE 8am: The Victoria State Emergency Service Incident Control Centre in Bendigo is keeping an eye on the water level in Charlton, which is expected to peak in the next 24 hours. 

Public Information Officer Jemma Nesbit-Sackville said a ground crew had been door-knocking people who might be affected by groundwater when the peak comes through. 

About 7500 people were without power after a major power fault affecting Charlton, Serpentine and Wycheproof.

Ms Nesbit-Sackville said Powercor was working to fix the fault. 

"We have also had a very close eye on Carisbrook, which was monitored overnight," she said. 

She said a potential peak at Tullaroop Reservoir steadied out overnight.

"Today we are continuing to monitor the situation and work closely with the divisional commander and CFA in Carisbrook," Ms Nesbit-Sackville said. 

UPDATE 7.30am: More than seven thousand homes are without power in the Charlton area.

A Powercor spokesperson said a fault just before 1am occurred somewhere along the 66 kV line from Bendigo, causing outages to 7800 homes.

The fault is not believed to be due to the flooding, the spokesperson said, but water over the Calder Highway is preventing crews from locating the source.

Crews may have to go by boat in order to gain access to the fault.

“We will be patrolling again this morning but it is not a typical situation in that the floods are preventing us from restoring power,” the spokesperson said.

Powercor is hoping power will be restored by midday, but would reassess the situation once the fault is located.

Locations without power include: Charlton, Birchip, Boort, Donald, St Arnaud, Wedderburn and Wycheproof.

UPDATE 8.30pm Wednesday: Authorities will begin doorknocking Charlton residents who may be affected by rising floodwaters from 8am tomorrow, with river levels expected to peak by Friday.

SES chief officer Mark Cattell said emergency services had 10,000 sandbags on hand should they be required.

Mr Cattell said the flooding would be less severe than the town experienced in September 2010, but could be worse than that of November 2010.

In the worst case scenario he said the river could reach as high as 7.8 metres with the major flood threshold of 7.3 metres expected to be reached by midday on Thursday.

Properties on Rutherford, Orr, High, Kaye and Watson streets are expected to be among those affected.

The NCCMA's Camille White said water was generally expected to be contained to the river but some properties which backed on to it could be threatened.

"There might be some properties which may be affected but obviously we'll be working closely with those land owners who may be affected," she said.