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Deluge continues in north Queensland with towns on flood watch after Tropical Cyclone Imogen downgraded

By Kate McKenna, Kelly Butterworth and staff, Wednesday January 6, 2021 - 00:49 EDT
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Black Gully Creek Crossing at Giru floods after rain from Tropical Cyclone Imogen. - ABC

Ex-tropical cyclone Imogen is continuing to dump heavy rain on Queensland's north, with "intense" falls, flash flooding and "damaging to destructive winds" possible as the system hovers over the region.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) predicts potential isolated daily rainfall totals of more than 350 millimetres in some parts.

Forecaster Peter Markworth said the region would see falls between 150mm and 200mm, with heavier falls between Tully and Townsville predicted before extending down to Ayr for the rest of Tuesday.

"The severe weather warning has been in place for a few days now. It's just south of Cairns over towards Georgetown, around past Gregory Springs, Charters Towers, then it crosses back towards the east coast just south of Ayr," he said.

"That?s where we're expecting the bulk of our rainfall.

"We can see up to a couple of hundred millimetres in quite a short amount of time ? and we could see up to 300mm along the coast."

The severe weather warning said periods of localised intense rainfall leading to life threatening flash flooding were possible, with damaging to locally destructive winds and thunderstorms about coastal areas from Ingham to Ayr.

A flood watch and various flood warnings remain in place for the area.

The BOM said major flooding was due to occur in areas near Ingham due to rising river levels in the Herbert River at Abergowrie Bridge, Ingham Pump Station and Gairloch.

Hinchinbrook Mayor Ramon Jayo said the district received between 100mm and 150mm of rain overnight.

However, Cr Jayo said there was no threat to residential properties.

"The district is very wet and we've got some extensive flooding occurring," he said.

"We've just gone through a 5-metre barrier at Halifax and that's our major flood level at Halifax.

"There are a lot of rural properties that are inundated at the present time but there's no real threat at the moment to any residential properties.

"The Lower Herbert is isolated to the rest of the district at the moment."

Throughout the Hinchinbrook area, roads are being affected by the intense rain, with some cut off.

Residents are being urged to check road conditions before heading out and to drive safely.

"There's a fair few roads affected that are lower lying," Cr Jayo said.

"We've had extensive rain since boxing day basically and we're over about 14 to 16 inches for various parts of the district.

"The ground is very saturated and just can't handle any more.

"Expect water on the road anywhere around the corner."

Hundreds of residents in remote storm-hit areas were set to spend a second night without power on Monday as flooding hampered access by Ergon crews.

Ergon Energy communications advisor Brett Judge said damage to power poles was the focus.

"Unfortunately there's still a fair bit of water lying around the place, and when I say lying ? it's flooding," he said.

"We have an extra helicopter that is coming in to Georgetown today, we have to actually airlift all our equipment and our crews into the area to do the repairs."

Mr Judge said temporary poles would need to be installed with 15 extra crew members on the ground, but there was no estimated fix time for the work.

'Low chance' of Imogen reforming

The first tropical cyclone of the season, Imogen, formed off the Gulf of Carpentaria late on Sunday afternoon, crossing land just north of Karumba about 9:00pm.

But the stint was short-lived and the system was downgraded to a tropical low at 11:00am on Monday.

BOM forecaster Pieter Claassen said that was the nature of Gulf cyclones.

"They don't have a lot of water to play with and they need this water to stay over to intensify ? this one [cyclone] moved over land quite quickly and didn't have much time to intensify," he said.

He said there was a "very low chance" it would reform because it was expected to stay over land.

The tropical low was predicted to track close to the coastline on Tuesday, before weakening slightly and veering back towards the west.

BOM hydrologist Sue Oates said widespread flooding was likely to be minor to moderate.

"Generally causing widespread inconvenience to communities in Far North Queensland, with typically roads cut and properties becoming isolated through that region," she said.

"Should we see major flooding ? we could see some properties inundated ? but it'll probably be more isolated locations."

It is expected the system will start tracking south towards Queensland's central coast from Thursday into the weekend, as another trough moves up from the south.

"There's still a bit of uncertainty over the exact focus ? [but] it's likely to stay wet, very wet, over the north tropical coast and Burdekin coast for the next two days at least," Mr Claassen said.


© ABC 2021

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