By Mitchell Clarke
A heavy deluge which fell on Pakenham and flooded streets was a once in a five year rainfall event, according to the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM).
Victoria Police was forced to close a number of main roads including Racecourse Road and sections of the Princes Highway, causing havoc for motorists making their way home during much of the evening commute on Monday 20 January.
The “extreme” weather event saw Pakenham and Officer record 35ML of rainfall over 24 hours with 20 ML of that falling in just one hour, with the heaviest rainfall recorded between 3 and 4pm.
Pakenham Upper recorded 17ML of rainfall; Berwick received 25ML while Cardinia received 10ML.
Residents in Pakenham and surrounding areas were hit with a flash flooding warning from Vic Emergency who sent out a message stating that people were “in danger”.
“If you are in Pakenham, you are in danger,” the alert message said.
“Drivers, pedestrians and cyclists should never enter flood water. For the sake of a few minutes extra, it’s worth finding an alternative route, rather than getting stranded.”
Despite this, some drivers failed to heed the warnings and continued to drive through rising floodwaters, causing grief for response crews.
It was a busy night for emergency services, who were forced to respond to more than 60 incidents including requests for assistance, trees down and flooding into properties.
Over an 80 minute period, SES volunteers received a call every two minutes with the last job being cleared at 11pm.
Most calls were for property flooding or building damage where water had entered through the roof. At least one house received enough damage to cause the house to be inhabitable.
A number of people became trapped in cars where water had risen as high as the windows.
Pakenham’s Lollipops play centre was one of many buildings which received damage.
Manager Jessie told the Gazette they were forced to evacuate the centre and will remain closed until further notice as the clean-up begins.
Frustrated residents took to social media to question organisations, who they claim, have failed to take preventative measures against heavy rainfall events.
“Every time it rains this much it floods in those same spots, yet nothing is ever done about it,” one user said.
“If only VicRoads would scrape the grass/dirt edges occasionally so the water would flow off easier,” another added.
“So what are you going to do about it?” one man asked Cardinia Shire Council.
“This should not happen – maybe clean out the storm water drains.”
The Bureau of Meteorology wouldn’t comment specifically on local government efforts but said it was usually very hard to prevent flooding incidents during an event like this.
“Our experience in Melbourne is that every time we have rainfall of this magnitude, we see highly localised flooding,” he said.