It was billed as a deadly storm but Victoria’s weekend of heavy rain didn’t meet expectations, forcing weather forecasters and emergency service agencies to defend their dire warnings.
Wet conditions from Friday to Sunday should not have been labelled a “10 out of 10” storm, Victoria’s Emergency Management commissioner said on Monday.
“I’m not saying the bureau has got it wrong, but ’10 out of 10′ was overused,” Craig Lapsley told ABC Radio on Monday.
I think that set a bar that was right up there.”
Melburnians were told to bunker down for “absolutely massive” rainfall, with several outdoor events cancelled and millions of emergency warning text messages distributed.
Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Scott Williams warned Victorians on Thursday “half the inhabitants of Melbourne have never, ever seen anything like this”.
Asked to rate the storms out of 10, Mr Williams said “it’s going to be pretty close to a 10”.
“It is an event that poses a threat to life.”
But Melbourne was spared the brunt of the storm, with just 107mm of rain recorded at suburban Blackburn, Doncaster and Kew over the three days.
Almost 50km northeast of the city at Kinglake, 200mm of rain fell on Saturday.
Victoria’s bureau manager Dr Andrew Tupper defended the warnings and said they were necessary, but wouldn’t comment on the criticisms.
“Absolutely it was worth putting out the severe weather warnings,” Dr Tupper said.
He would not respond to Mr Lapsley’s comments but did say he understood some people were concerned the warnings were given too early.
“We can’t really wait until we know what exact suburbs or areas are going to be hit,” Dr Tupper said.
“A warning is put over a general area and then it is narrowed down as we get a more accurate picture.”
Emergency Services Minister James Merlino defended emergency warnings, saying the bureau correctly predicted the amount of rain.
“What is hard to predict is the timing of the rain, the intensity when it falls and the location.”
The state and federal governments on Sunday announced a disaster assistance package for affected Victorians, while the bureau said the worst of the bad weather had passed.