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NIWA Hydrologist visits Karamea to present damage assessment of S.E. Queensland floods

Also on June 8 our community was visited by internationally renowned hydrologist, Dr. Graeme Smart. Graeme has visited our community in the past, always to do with Karamea’s propensity for flooding. Recently Graeme was asked by GeoScience Australia to assist with assessment and survey of flood damage caused by the January 2011 S.E. Queensland flooding events. Those floods were devastating to property, livestock, infrastructures and commerce, and many human lives were lost.

Dr. Smart presented a film of the aftermath, giving a provisional overview of observations and findings for Brisbane and the Grantham ‘red zone’. Graeme commented on the length of time that rising water levels occurred, making correlations with Karamea’s own river dynamics and flooding history. He noted that, while many of the communities destroyed by the Queensland flood events were in flood plain areas people were still unprepared to act swiftly in order to prevent or minimize damage and casualties. This, in part (according to Dr. Smart) was because the rivers peaked more than once within compressed time periods, due to the intensive yet fluctuating rainfall. Rivers would recede only to rise again, higher than before, catching people unaware and off-guard. Preparedness and an appropriate warning system, said Graeme, are the best defence.

Dr. Smart is presently doing research around Karamea with the goal of producing a report to our regional council. His focus is on our 100 year flood event, where flooding is most likely to do the most harm and how we might consider some possible plans to minimize that harm. Graeme presented a computer-modeled map of Karamea, showing the landscape (largely under water), during a 100 year flood event. The image was sobering and worthy of contemplation.

Thanks to our community’s rating board, including Bevan Langford and Margaret Macbeth, for facilitating Dr. Graeme Smart’s visit to Karamea in order to present his ongoing research, findings and thoughts.

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