BE PREPARED: Ex-Murwillumbah SES unit controller Chris Christostomos in front of the 2017 flood data.
BE PREPARED: Ex-Murwillumbah SES unit controller Chris Christostomos in front of the 2017 flood data. Nikki Todd

Lessons to be learned in reading the BOM

FORMER Murwillumbah SES unit controller Chris Christostomos has lived through more floods than he cares to remember.

The 71-year-old, who recently stood down as the head of the unit after seven years at the helm but is still actively involved in the organisation, is a wealth of knowledge on flooding in the Tweed.

Describing the Tweed River catchment area as possibly the most flood-prone on the NSW East Coast, he would like residents to learn from the 2017 flood.

For him, knowledge of the Bureau of Meteorology website is key, which provides hourly updates of gauges in the Tweed River catchment, including at Tyalgum, Uki, Murwillumbah, Boatharbour and Tumbulgum, indicating rainfall and river heights.

"The biggest problem we have is a lot of people aren't familiar with the internet, they aren't familiar with the BOM," Mr Christostomos said.

"The first thing we need to do is educate people on how to get onto the BOM and read the data. The idea is eventually ... you can be sitting in Sydney or wherever ... and if you get onto the BOM you can see the gauge, you can see at 3.6m on the Tumbulgum gauge, the water is going to be lapping underneath your house and you better ring the neighbours and get them to shift the chooks."

Mr Christostomos said each flood event should be diarised to understand what gauge readings act as a trigger.

"Anything that falls in the upper catchment, for that water to come from Tyalgum and Uki to Murwillumbah is about a three-hour flow time," he said.

"For that water to get from Murwillumbah to Tumbulgum is about another three hours, so if you live at Tumbulgum ... you've got six hours to shift your stuff."

An information sheet on how to read the BOM is available at the Murwillumbah SES.



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