Carnarvon residents urged to consider evacuating as river swells

Jenne Brammer & Lisa FavazzoMidwest Times
Flooding in Carnarvon.
Camera IconFlooding in Carnarvon. Credit: Katie Thoars

Flood water will cut off a road in the Carnarvon township, forcing residents to either evacuate or prepare to stay put as heavy rains cause the Gascoyne River to swells due to heavy rains.

In a statement, the Shire urged people living in the plantation ward and on North River Road west of Bibbawarra Road to consider leaving their homes.

Those fleeing the flood can seek refuge at the Woolshed on Camel Lane. There is a sandbag fill point on James Street.

About 200mm has fallen on Carnarvon and up to 300m further afield in the Gascoyne region since Wednesday. 

The Shire said the Gascoyne River may reach 7.1m at the 9 Mile Bridge.

The rain marks the region’s biggest rainfall event since the devastating 2010-2011 floods which caused about $100 million damage, washing away entire homes, crops and plantations and wiping out about 2000 cattle. 

Despite warnings most in the region were confident there would not be similar damage levels to that of 2010-11. 

The combination of slightly lower river level and a $65 million investment in flood mitigation measures in 2013, largely funded by Royalties for Regions, has given the area a sense of comfort major damage would be avoided. 

The 24 km of levee banks, put in place to mitigate similar destruction to what occurred in 2010, will for the first time be tested over the weekend. 

Member for North West Central Vince Catania said the levy system was designed take the pressure off fast rushing water, should the river level exceed 6.6.5m. 

“This rain is very welcome, and we don’t expect major damage, there is a lot of comfort that the flood mitigation levee banks have been put in place, but it is always in the back of the mind that have not yet been tested, and what could happen if it’s a very big river,” Mr Catania said. 

Local orchardist and former shire president Dudley Maslen said rains had been “staggering”.

“Some people will get pretty damp, but overall I think Carnarvon is now pretty safe from anything like what happened a decade ago,” Mr Maslen said.

“Absolutely the flood mitigation work plays a role in that. We have all been waiting, some of us with hope, some with confidence for it to be tested one day.”

Mr Catania said the region was instead seeing the deluge as positive, recharging water reserves for irrigated horticulture in the region, and delivering a much welcome drink for the region’s parched pastoralists.

“The rain will really transform pastoral land and give pastoralists a huge boost. It will really rejuvenate the country and help industry over the next 12 months,” he said.

Separately, localised rainfall has caused the collapse of North West Coastal Highway to the north and south of Carnarvon, cutting off access to Carnarvon. 

The Shire is working with the Department of Fire and Emergency, The Department of Communities and other local agencies to prepared the town for what is to come.

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