Emerald Floods 2010

Right now I am in Emerald, Qld., Australia with choppers droning constantly overhead in the middle of a flood event, having spent the last few days bagging sand for friends’ houses. I have been through this a few times now, having grown up in country areas.

I want to document how poorly BoM modeling has served the community during this event. No flood risk was projected initially.

Dec 25th: The main rain fell on Christmas day in the catchment, a widespread 4-6 inches.

Dec 27th: The Bureau of Meteorology advised that Emerald was facing a minor flood level of just under 3.5 metres over the spillway at the Fairbairn Dam within the next 72 hours.

Then a minor flood was predicted.

Dec 29th:Water should peak at the Nogoa River approximately midday Friday 31st December 300mm (12 inches/1 foot) above the 2008 level. This may close rail access.

Suddenly they panicked. Projections jumped 0.5 meters. On the basis of advice the Mayor ordered evacuation of 80% of the town.

Dec 30th: The flood height is estimated to get to 800mm or 0.8 metres above the 2008 flood levels to a peak of 16.2 metres . Residents in the red shaded area from yesterdays map 1 need to evacuate now to the Town Hall.

This was followed by a map covering 95% of the town. Evacuate a town of 10,000 people to a tiny town hall in 24 hours — yeah right.

Right now, 5:30pm on the 30th the flood gauge at the Nogoa River bridge has stabilized. I think this will be the peak at 15.85 meters. Fairbairn Dam will probably peak at 4.5 meters in the next few hours.

The BoM predictions started at 3.5m at the spillway on the 27th, kept rising daily as the water rose, then paniced and overshot by 0.5m on the final day.

A known amount of rain fell on a known terrain. It can’t be that hard.

All advisories here.


0 thoughts on “Emerald Floods 2010

  1. David I feel for you – hope there’s not too much damage to livestock and people; the rest of the damage is of course incalculatable

  2. Thanks for your comments. My daughter lives in Emerald. She and her family and in-laws who are visiting from NSW are at a friend’s house but might have to evacuate from there too. I have seen Map 1 with the red shading but cannot find the second map you refer to. Is there a link to that somewhere?
    Joanna, Indiana, USA

    • Jo, There was no web link, but it basically covered the whole of
      Emerald except for St Pats. to Town Hall area. Right now the flood
      has peaked and water infilled throughout the streets. Houses in low
      spots have been affected. There won’t be any more rises in water.

    • It is pretty calm. People are walking around, and the streets are
      quiet. The sun has come out. Some friends I know have gone back to
      pick up meat out of their freezers so they can make it through, but
      the town is open to the north. Both shopping malls were flooded, as
      were the fast food outlets. People who evacuated are wondering about
      their houses. It must be really hard for people who were on vacation
      as they would not know where they stand, and can’t get back.Well it
      wouldn’t be advisable to come back as the food distribution system is
      going to be stressed.

  3. I’ve e mailed the Red Cross; there was good coverage on the ch 7 news tonight and the victims are stiff lipped but don’t know what the ABC will show; my gripe is that the charities should be launching appeals not the State Govt and I am appalled at the miserliness of the amt offered by the State and Fed Govts; I’ve passed that on to the Red Cross; I recall at the time of the Black Sat fires I donated through the Red Cross and Qld was also suffering flood damage at that time but the Black Sat victims got the majority of the appeal funds and now I think it’s Qld’s turn – hopefully the Red Cross will come to the party; I think they are much more photogenic than the PM and State Premier

  4. David & family,

    Colleen & I several times discussed whether to contact you but decided you might be too busy. We’ve been through past floods and looking after drinking water, melting food, avoiding snakes and so on keeps one busy. We are glad you will come out of this OK.

    We have several friends and rellies within 500 km of you and we thought the same about them. As you observed, there was a scarcity of reliable information. That was one of the main reasons we thought of direct contact, but often coms go down also through overload by tyre kickers.

    You’ve summed it up as usual. “A known amount of rain fell on a known terrain. It can’t be that hard.”

    Next, will there be a call for a larger forecast computer?

    Might be better to call in a Greek hydrologist.

    • ‘You’ve summed it up as usual. “A known amount of rain fell on a known terrain. It can’t be that hard.”‘

      At one stage yesterday, I was in the local water office, and the hydrologist was perplexed, to say the least, at the projections of 1m above the 2008 flood (15.4m) coming through from Brisbane (that didn’t come out officially). It eventually peaked at 0.6m above (16m), which was below most. Another 0.4m would have made a huge difference for flood damage, and was way above reasonable, but they (Brisbane office) had been underestimating all along, so I guess they overshoot. (There is a certain dynamic of head vs regional offices if you have experience of this.)

      Right now, Rockhampton is in the cross-hairs and the estimates range from 8.5 to 10.5m. WTF! If people have 1 week to prepare instead of 24 hours it makes a huge difference.

      It doesn’t take super-computers. Less unvalidated climate model projection of doubled droughts to satisfy green energy agenda’s and more rigorous science would help.

  5. Here’s another comment about water puzzles. Letter to me from Murray Darling Basin Authority:

    Self-explanatory, but what is the mechanism?

    • Geoff that’s interesting. Why would they track gross value? Is it adjusted to todays dollars? has the price of the commodity been taken into consideration? i.e. are the volumes up or down?


  6. David the ABC news ran a reasonable coverage of the floods last night and thought you’d be interested in this letter by
    Mick Whybrow, Birkdale, Qld published in the Aust today:

    WHEN it comes to federal government assistance, the people of the flood-ravaged districts of QLD must wish they ran Indonesian schools.
    That way they would be getting $500 million (as promised by the Prime Minister on her last visit to Indonesia) instead of the $1 million pittance Julia Gillard has offered to a donations fund announced by Queensland Premier Anna Bligh for flood victims (“Floods threaten to displace thousands”, 30/12).

    As it’s a public holiday comments to the letter won’t be published today but for what it’s worth I’ll certainly comment and might be published tomorrow

  7. Our thoughts and wishes are with you and the communities affected.
    I’ve emailed the premiers office protesting at the inadequecy of the state and fed pledges.


  8. David, I’ve been to Emerald a couple of times in recent years and had no idea that the town was so vulnerable. You haven’t said how your house fared. I have noticed that all of the weather models have had a hard time getting it right for my area- Lake Macquarie even over a day or two. All the best there.

    • ColinD, My house is fine, but another 30cm would have been a problem
      for me and many others. Yeah, Emerald is a flat old place.

  9. David, thank goodness it wasn’t 30 cm more!
    Best wishes – Thanks for the detailed local chronology. It’s hard to get that from disparate news sources.


  10. Divis, We hope that the worst has pased and that you do not have too much reconstruction to do.

    Today on the local radio, Dr David Jones noted that since 1900, the last decade in Australia was the hottest. Maybe it was. If the BOM gave us raw data we could check. But I think it might have been a brave call if David was involved in auditing the New Zealand data.

    Surely by now there are several examinations of Australian data, such as at Kenskingdom, Jo Nova, IPA, Warwick Hughes and more, in addition to your work, which cast doubt on the rate of national increase in that 110 years.

  11. When we lived at Mt Morgan just west of Rockhampton, there was an evaporative salt works just downstream from Rocky. In 1970+/- 1 year I was asked to do an independent report about an insurance claim for loss of production from the salt works resulting from an abnormally high rainfall month. One side claimed it was act of God and exempt, the other said it was abnormal weather of precisely the type why they took out insurance.

    Just a short, old story, but it does mention weather prediction and insurance, which I am sure we will see more discussed in the next couple of years.

    BTW, it’s hard to imagine evaporative salt as viable when you see the images of the Fitzroy River, which really does have a large drainage hinterland.

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