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Cyclonic system bringing more heavy rain to northern Queensland

By Lily Nothling and staff, Tuesday January 8, 2019 - 16:28 EDT
ABC licensed image
The system was bringing steady rain to Rockhampton and Mackay on Tuesday afternoon. - ABC licensed

Residents in northern Queensland are being urged to prepare for wild weather and flooding, with ex-Tropical Cyclone Penny expected to dump hundreds of millimetres of rain across coastal communities from Rockhampton to Cairns over the next few days.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said the tropical low was close to the Queensland coastline, bringing heavy rainfall to Rockhampton and Mackay on Tuesday.

BOM meteorologist Gordon Banks said the system would then move north.

"Certainly Mackay, Proserpine, Hamilton Island [will be affected] — and as we go through the week we'll see places such as Townsville and eventually the north tropical coast also affected, with heavy rainfall moving up there probably through Wednesday and Thursday," Mr Banks said.

"We could be seeing falls over six-hour periods in excess of 150 millimetres."

Mr Banks said flooding was likely in parts of northern Queensland that had already experienced record-breaking rain last month, brought on by ex-Tropical Cyclone Owen.

The heaviest rain fell at Halifax, east of Ingham, which recorded 681 millimetres in 24 hours and broke the 53-year-old national December record.

Further north, the Daintree experienced flooding and landslides, with almost a metre and a half of rainfall recorded during the December period.

"Rivers along the north tropical coast have had quite significant flooding in the last few weeks and the catchments are still saturated," Mr Banks said.

"So heavy rainfall, which could exceed 200 millimetres over relatively short periods, could see those rivers rise very rapidly."

Preparations underway, holidaymakers warned

A spokeswoman for the Cairns Regional Council said weather of this nature was seasonal and had been factored into earlier planning and preparations.

Far northern State Emergency Service (SES) regional director Wayne Coutts said crews were prepared for any impending deluge but urged the public to start their own planning.

He said the SES had responded to about 100 storm damage jobs in the Cairns region during recent weather events.

"Most of those were caused by poor maintenance on properties, not so much by damage from winds and trees — so if people could do [storm preparations] that would help the State Emergency Service out quite a lot," he said.

Although recent sunshine and hot weather had caused flooded areas to dry up and river and creek levels to subside, the SES warned flash flooding was always a risk.

"Unfortunately we've had two deaths recently due to flooded waters so it's really important for people to consider their options and have plans in place before anything bad happens," Mr Coutts said.

In Mackay, Deputy Mayor Amanda Camm said while the weather was "nothing out of the ordinary" for locals, there was concern for holidaymakers on flooded roads.

"In the [Eungella] National Park area, in the Finch Hatton Gorge area, when we've got visitors to the region or we've got people out in those areas where they're unfamiliar with those roads, certainly after heavy rainfall those roads are prone to flash flooding," Cr Camm said.

"If they don't know the road and they see water over the road ... turn around and go back."


© ABC 2019

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