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Tasmanian farmers welcome a decent downpour, but serious flooding unlikely

By Peta Carlyon, Sunday December 3, 2017 - 12:17 EDT
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Flooding is unlikely in Tasmania despite heavy rainfall - ABC

As parts of Victoria begin the clean-up operation after a weekend of heavy rain, Tasmania is also expecting a decent downpour.

In what's shaping up as a wet start to summer after a record dry spring, forecasters are predicting 50 millimetres of rain for much of the state, and up to 100 mm in some areas including the north-east.

Heavy rain started falling across that region yesterday afternoon, and Simplot Potato Growers chairman Trevor Hall said it would bring some much-needed relief to farmers.

He said the November heat had forced farmers to start irrigating early.

"It's been full-on with the irrigation, so it'll give everyone a bit of a break," Mr Hall said.

"Just looking at this potato crop here, with a really warm November, we've got really good emergence.

"This particular crop here will be at row closure in about another 10 days to a fortnight, which is really good."

While 50 to 70mm would be ideal, Mr Hall said it was too early to worry about the risk of flooding if the rain continued to fall.

"Not at the moment. It might be a different story mid-to-late next week, but not at the moment," Mr Hall said.

"The river levels are pretty low and most of the soil's pretty dry, so it'll soak a fair bit up before we have too many hassles I'd imagine."

Rain ban leaves flood watches in place

Flood watches are in place for the North and South Esk rivers.

Tasmania's heavy rain has so far failed to fall on the east coast where it is most needed.

Parts of the east coast have experienced their driest period on record between June and October.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) says the highest rainfall recorded since 9:00am AEDT yesterday was in the southeast, with 39mm at Fern Tree and 36mm at Mount Wellington.

On the east coast, St Helens recorded around 5mm, and Fingal around 5.2mm.

But forecaster Tristan Oakley says that's likely to change as the rain band moves across the state.

Serious flooding unlikely

BOM acting manager and senior forecaster Simon McCulloch said unlike in Victoria, serious flooding was unlikely.

"We're on the periphery in Tasmania, so there's a little bit uncertainty about how much of an effect we will have with that," Mr McCulloch said.

"The standard pattern in Tasmania with systems coming in from the west is much more predictable than this easterly regime."

Mr McCulloch said the recent build-up with humidity and heat was contributing to the unstable weather.

"Something's got to give in those situations," he said.

"And what we've seen in Tasmania perhaps unusually in recent times is the number of thunderstorms.

"At some point in time if you don't get an air mass change which we haven't had, you just get this build-up of humidity, build-up of heat, and something breaks."

Climatologist Ian Barnes-Keoghan said an increase in ocean surface temperatures due to the hot Tasmanian spring had contributed to the weather pattern.

"We have also seen exceptionally warm sea surface temperatures around us," he said.

"The waters surrounding us are much much warmer than they would normally be at this time of year."

That could spell trouble for the state's aquaculture sector and signal a return of the deadly POMS virus.

Mr Barnes-Keoghan said it was also unlikely any rain events in coming days would significantly lower this summer's fire risk or turn around the fortunes of those doing it hardest in the dry on the east coast.

"Large areas of the east coast are tracking as the driest six months on record," he said.

"It's very concerning, particularly concerning after these very warm temperatures that we've had."


© ABC 2017

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