Sunday, April 21, 2024

St Helens,Tasmania Recovering After Devastating Floods Wreak Havoc

HomeTop NewsSt Helens,Tasmania Recovering After Devastating Floods Wreak Havoc

St Helens, Tasmania – Residents and business owners in the coastal town of St Helens are in the midst of a massive clean-up operation after severe thunderstorms and flooding caused widespread damage on Wednesday. Torrential rain and thousands of lightning strikes pounded the area, resulting in impassable roads, power outages, and extensive property damage.

The Storm’s Toll

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, St Helens Airport recorded a staggering 145 millimeters (5.7 inches) of rainfall over the course of the day. Nearly 19,000 lightning strikes were detected in the region, overwhelming drainage systems and leading to flash flooding.

“We saw extremely heavy, localized rainfall around Beaumaris, Scamander, and St Helens that simply overwhelmed the stormwater infrastructure, causing flooding everywhere,” said Mick Lowe, director of the State Emergency Service (SES). SES teams responded to 29 calls for assistance, with two homes sustaining interior flood damage.

Attila Szekely, owner of the Anchor Wheel Motel, was one of the many business operators coming to grips with the storm’s toll. Nine rooms at his motel were flooded, seven of them severely damaged.

“The drainage system normally handles heavy storms, but this was just relentless,” Szekely said. “Water was pouring in from the street and surrounding vacant lots. The systems just couldn’t keep up.”

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A Climate Refugee’s Dismay

For Szekely, the flooding was a cruel twist of fate. He had relocated to St Helens from North Queensland three years ago in an attempt to escape the frequent tropical weather events and cyclones of that region.

“We’re climate refugees, and it’s followed us,” he lamented. “It’s not fair, it’s not fair at all. I haven’t seen rain like this except in far north Queensland during the summer cyclone season.”

The Anchor Wheel Motel will remain closed indefinitely as repair efforts get underway. Szekely has already been forced to cancel weeks’ worth of bookings, dealing a severe blow to his business.

Businesses and Infrastructure Impacted

Szekely’s motel was far from the only establishment impacted by the storm. Craig Lockwood, owner of the Lease 65 oyster farm, said the flooding had forced a temporary shutdown of his operation in Moulting Bay.

“It’s done a lot of damage and put debris all over our premises,” Lockwood said. “We’ll be closed for harvesting and production for at least two weeks, maybe three.”

Low salinity levels in the bay due to the influx of freshwater and the potential for sewage contamination mean an even longer road to recovery for the oyster farm.

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Essential infrastructure in St Helens also took a beating. Floodwaters damaged the St Helens District High School building, which will remain closed on Thursday for damage assessment. The local Marine Rescue base was struck directly by lightning, with a “full audit” scheduled to determine the extent of the harm.

Around 19,000 lightning strikes overwhelmed drainage systems, leading to extensive flooding throughout St Helens and surrounding areas. Stranded Motorists Urged to Stay Off Roads

During the height of the storm, authorities implored residents to avoid any unnecessary travel. Flooded roads became impassable, stranding motorists and prompting police to issue stern warnings.

“No one should be driving because visibility is extremely poor in addition to the flooding,” said Inspector Luke Manhood of the Tasmania Police. “We’ve got all our staff assisting with jobs right now because people are experiencing flooding in their houses as well. It’s been a tremendous amount of rain.”

The Tasman Highway, a key artery for the region, was completely cut off due to flooding, with both lanes blocked between Hodges Road and Reservoir Road. Hundreds of customers in nearby towns lost power as the electrical grid buckled under the onslaught.

Tasmania Police advised drivers to exercise extreme caution if travel was absolutely necessary. “Never attempt to drive through a flooded road,” they said in a statement. “Even shallow water can be deceptive and pose a significant risk.”

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Disaster Relief Efforts and a Challenging Political Climate

As the clean-up effort commences, local authorities are working to secure state and federal disaster relief funding for impacted residents and businesses. However, this process has been complicated by Tasmania’s political landscape.

With a state election looming in March, the current government is operating in a caretaker capacity, creating hurdles in accessing emergency funds. Break O’Day mayor Mick Tucker urged Premier Jeremy Rockliff to cut through the red tape.

“It’s quite an unusual circumstance,” Tucker said. “We’re in caretaker mode, but emergencies happen whether you’re in caretaker mode or not, so we need the Premier to sign some paperwork now for some natural disaster [funding].”

Rockliff expressed a willingness to assist the beleaguered community. “We’ll of course do all we can to support the local community,” he said.

The road ahead remains daunting for St Helens as residents and businesses work to repair homes, restore livelihoods, and rebuild critical infrastructure. But in the face of such a destructive act of nature, the resilience and determination of this close-knit coastal community will be tested like never before.

Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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