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STORM SEASON: SES crews, council prep for onslaught

DESPERATE TIMES: Michael Griffiths, and helping out is Chris Scholtz, with sand bagging at Palmwoods SES.
DESPERATE TIMES: Michael Griffiths, and helping out is Chris Scholtz, with sand bagging at Palmwoods SES. Patrick Woods

DEDICATED sandbag stations, beach reinforcements and a push to have people pre-prepared are part of the plans to protect the Coast from more extreme weather.

The Sunshine Coast Council and local State Emergency Service groups have teamed up to establish the region's first dedicated sandbagging stations in a bid to free up local roads and SES crews when Mother Nature unleashes her fury.

Sand will be trucked in to Nambour Showgrounds, Maroochydore Cricket Club and the Caloundra Rugby Union Club in the build-up to forecast storms and major weather events.

Sunshine Coast SES unit local controller Janet Scott said at present, local roads were being heavily blocked up by traffic during severe weather, as lines of cars stopped outside SES sheds to fill up sandbags.

The influx of concerned residents to local sheds was also leaving volunteer crews spending time filling sandbags when they could be on the road responding to emergency calls for help.

With an east coast low looming next week and more rain forecast this week, the start to storm season has been lively already.

The clean-up bill after ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie was significant.

A Sunshine Coast Council spokeswoman said while the majority of damage had been to natural assets, with many trees and parks "severely damaged" there was also minor infrastructure damage to bridges and roads.

The cost of that clean-up was more than $1.036 million.

The need to protect the Coast's public assets is significant.

Council's major infrastructure assets with engineered stormwater drainage in place total almost $3 billion, while the replacement value of the stormwater drainage in the region is more than $1.2 billion.

There is more than $304 million worth of buildings, more than $1.99 billion in roads, more than $353 million of parks and reserves and more than $204 million worth of other civil infrastructure to protect across the Coast.

Local beaches, another area of council responsibility, are also extremely valuable.

While not quantified, the major tourism drivers are also on the council's protection list from severe weather.

More than 1000 cubic metres of sand is being taken from inside Currimundi Lake and placed on the beach, to reinforce the area for the coming storm season after a 300m section of beach between the lake and the ocean was eroded in recent weeks.

Local SES groups experienced 10 times more call-outs last storm season than the previous year, responding to about 750 incidents.

Since October they have already responded to more than 150 call-outs.

Ms Scott said they'd been stockpiling sandbags at the moment for crews to use, with about 2500-3000 prepared, but she wanted more in reserve.

"They (sandbags) just went so quickly (before ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie)," she said.

A veteran of 29 years in the SES, Ms Scott said they had eight sheds and about 260 members on the Coast.

She said they were getting busier each year and storm season would test them again until March/April.

Topics:  community disaster environment natural disaster nature sunshine coast sunshine coast council weather



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