21 April 2011

Flood warnings hard to follow as changes sought to Weather Bureau forecasts

INFORMATION about river flood heights during January’s natural disaster had little relevance to residents in many flood affected suburbs, said one expert.

Residents watched in shock as the Bremer River flooded over the One Mile Bridge.

INFORMATION about river flood heights during January’s natural disaster had little relevance to residents in many flood affected suburbs, according to an expert.

Environmental engineer and James Cook University researcher Ross Kapitzke said while vital data was available on the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) website, many were unsure how to use the information.

In a written submission to the Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry, Mr Kapitzke said media reports focused on the Brisbane city gauge on the Brisbane River and the Ipswich gauge on the Bremer River.

He said residents in other suburbs were not presented with information on how the floods affected them.

Mr Kapitzke said one example was that while the Brisbane River gauge in Brisbane predicted a rise there of 2-3 metres, the BOM was predicting rises of between 8 and 10 metres in suburbs like Goodna.

He suggested the situation could be improved in the future if flooding information on the BOM website was made more accessible.

“The shortcomings of this information flow could so easily be improved if only the rain and river data were more readily available for reasoned use by the public,” he said.

Ipswich City Councillor Paul Tully, whose Goodna home was inundated in the floods along with many of his constituents, agreed that the information should be easier to understand and more relevant to particular suburbs.

Goodna is bounded by the Brisbane River, and Cr Tully said it was confusing for residents when media reports used that river’s flood gauge in Brisbane City to warn people.

“That means nothing to the average punter. Whatever height it is there, it means something totally different for Goodna,” Cr Tully said.

In his submission to the flood inquiry, Cr Tully said a system similar to cyclone warning categories should be introduced to make it easier.

“It would be easier for a member of the public to understand Einstein’s Theory of Relativity than to decipher Queensland’s flood alert system,” he said.

His suggestion would have a flood scale numbered one to five, with Category One representing minor flooding, all the way to Category Five representing catastrophic flooding.

A spokesman for the BOM said that because they are one of the agencies assisting the commission, it won’t comment on these and related issues outside of the Commission.

The BOM provided a detailed report to the commission about its flood warning measures in the lead up to January’s flood.

Flood warnings hard to follow | Natural Disasters | Ipswich Queensland Times

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