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What classes can we study from the 1956 Murray-Darling River floods?


River flows are advanced however regardless of our greatest efforts to regulate them, historical past has confirmed that flooding is inevitable.

With flooding now threatening the border cities of Echuca, Moama and Kerang, there are considerations about how the downstream Murray River system shall be affected.

Wanting again at previous floods alongside rivers can present vital insights into classes discovered from earlier disasters, such because the three-month flood of 1956 that devastated total rivers. communities dwelling alongside tributaries.

The men on the boat with cam
The 1956 flood left Pomona citrus possessions as islands within the inland floodwaters for months.(Supplied by: Patricia Whyte)

Diary offers perception into previous floods

Retired citrus grower Alan Whyte drew many comparisons to earlier floods that affected the Murray and Darling River communities.

He’s the third era of the Whyte household to farm within the Pomona area of New South Wales, and his household has saved quite a few data of the Darling River’s actions for the reason that Nineties.

Farm surrounded by flood water
The Whyte household farm in Pomona NSW was swept in by floodwaters throughout the 1956 flood.(Photograph: Patricia Whyte)

It was his grandfather’s day by day accounts of the intensification of the 1956 flood that offered useful perception into how the group ready for and responded to that devastating occasion.

Diary entries from Verco Whyte describe how the city rallied to construct levees and sandbag partitions to avoid wasting the city’s very important electrical energy provide and Wentworth County Hospital from flooding.

Photo of the diary page
Verco Whyte’s Diary is about on a regular basis life by the flood of 1956.(Supplied by: Alan Whyte)

Throughout that point, the farmers had been stranded for months, and so they used boats to reap and transport citrus to city and purchase provides.

“The one strategy to get out and in is by boat, so my grandfather would deliver a load of fruit into city on daily basis between work on the embankment,” Mr. Whyte mentioned.

Though the 1956 floods weren’t the most important to hit the Murray River or the Darling River, their severity is because of the truth that each rivers flooded on the similar time.

Men transporting citrus by boat through flood water
Oranges are transported to the market throughout the flood.(Photograph: Patricia Whyte)

The city of Wentworth is situated on the confluence of each the Murray and Darling rivers within the far south-west of NSW. Whereas the city had many warnings about giant flows anticipated from each fronts of the river, residents weren’t ready for the magnitude, length or scale of the cleanup.

When the primary rains hit, farmers from the close by cities of Mildura, Pink Cliffs and Wentworth rallied to construct the embankment utilizing their small grey Massey Ferguson tractor to guard the hospital. , the city’s fundamental energy station and infrastructure.

“There’s a lot folks can study from what occurred previously,” Mr. Whyte mentioned.

A man in a hat by the Murray River in front of a rowing boat
Alan Whyte, a retired citrus grower within the Darling River, has been learning the water issues of the Murray Darling Basin for many years.(ABC Mildura Swan Hill: Jennifer Douglas)

Mr Whyte is worried that cities within the space usually are not ready for a large-scale flood.

For many years, he was an lively spokesperson on the area’s water points. In 2019 he offered proof to the Royal Fee on the Murray Darling Basin Plan on behalf of the Southwest Water Customers Group.

He informed watersheds at excessive capability, excessive floor moisture and within the fourth yr of La Niña, communities have to be looking out for the potential for one other main flood.

“We have not had a major flood for the reason that mid-Nineteen Seventies, and it is about time we hit an actual flood,” he mentioned.

Fergie Tractor saves town
Grey Fergie tractors have confirmed their versatility in floods.(Supplied by: Patricia Whyte)

New homes constructed on flood plains

Mr Whyte mentioned one of many largest considerations is housing developments constructed on floodplains, that are wanted to disperse extra rainwater.

Map of Murray Darling Basin
Many watersheds, rivers and tributaries drain into the Murray-Darling Basin.(Supplied: MDBA)

“If floodwaters usually are not capable of spill out like they used to within the developed floodplains, then river cities round Mildura and Wentworth should see a lot increased ranges of flooding,” he mentioned. he mentioned.

Mr Whyte says floods are inevitable as they’re a pure river course of, however river elevations might be affected by the constructed surroundings.

“It is laborious to foretell how excessive the floodwaters shall be, however the concern will not be whether or not it would recur, however when,” he mentioned.

The men on the boat with cam
Orange growers used boats to reap and transport oranges throughout floodwaters to city.(Photograph: Patricia Whyte)

Put together for right now’s floods

Helen Dalton is a member of Murray. She can also be involved concerning the potential for flooding and the impression on her group alongside the New South Wales financial institution of the Murray River close to Wentworth.

A woman in a blue shirt holding a hat stands in front of some sheep.
There isn’t a doubt that rising water is placing stress on the river system, Ms. Dalton mentioned.(Supplied by: Helen Dalton)

“With all of the water shifting down the Murray, then you definitely put extra water in from Darling, that is going to place numerous stress on Wentworth,” Ms Dalton mentioned.

Ms Dalton reiterated My Whyte’s considerations concerning the impression of housing and infrastructure improvement on low-lying areas alongside the waterfront, and the way that might have an effect on floodwaters .

“There was numerous improvement,” she mentioned. It will probably change your complete course of the flood water passing by.

“We have seen it elsewhere the place there’s housing improvement, with folks forgetting that again within the day, they had been low-lying and liable to flooding. I believe folks have quick reminiscences and that is an actual concern.”

Ms. Dalton has been intently monitoring current climate forecasts and river movement forecasts, as additional heavy rain is forecast for the world this week.

“We additionally had a forecast for La Niña, which might add one other complication to what was occurring,” she mentioned.

“All of the tributaries and creeks are full and flowing into the Murray and the Darling together with the outer rivers. These giant flows into the Murray and the Darling will create fairly a number of issues.”


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