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Flood and wind watch for Tasmania as severe weather rolls over state

Thursday May 10, 2018 - 15:56 EST
ABC image
The outlook is for wet and windy conditions to continue until Saturday. - ABC

Tasmanians are bracing for heavy rain, strong winds, possible flooding and snow across Thursday and Friday.

Businesses in flood-prone Huonville, about 40 kilometres south of Hobart, are busily preparing for possible inundation from the nearby Huon River as the rain buckets down.

Staff at the Caltex petrol station, directly opposite the Huonville bridge, are getting stock off the ground and have sandbags on standby.

Huonville hair salon owner Debbie Armstrong said she would be preparing for the worst tonight.

She plans on moving her shop's contents to higher ground after losing everything in the 2016 floods.

"We lost everything last time and I'm not going to do that again, because there's no insurance," she said.

"When we close tonight we will put everything up high and remove everything we can remove.

"We'll put everything valuable up, and unplug everything because our EFTPOS was ruined last time."

Ms Armstrong said she would have liked the council or authorities to have provided advice to businesses in the flood zone.

"I've had nobody come to me, the only reason I know about this is because the people next door gave us a heads up," she said.

"We've not had any information from any authority at all."

She said sandbags would not be effective.

"Realistically, I'm in the path of a flood, it's not going to make any difference," she said.

"Until they fix where it comes from and how it gets here, they won't be effective."

In 2016, , with water from the Huon reaching up into the town's main street.

Wet and windy till Saturday

Today, the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) issued a flood watch for the entire eastern half of Tasmania, with between 20 and 50 millimetres of rain expected and more in elevated areas.

Winds with peak gusts of up to 100 kilometres an hour are expected on Thursday afternoon.

BOM cautioned that strong south-easterly winds were "reasonably uncommon over Tasmania" and "impacts may be different to what is usually experienced in windy conditions".

It also said due to the "nature of the complex low, there is uncertainty in the forecast rainfall".

River rises are expected in response to the forecast rainfall and flooding may develop in some catchments from overnight Thursday into Friday onwards, with the severity depending on the rainfall totals, BOM said.

Meteorologist Alex Melitsis said Friday would be the wettest day before the rain eased off on Saturday morning.

He said the east coast, which has had very dry conditions for in months, could experience flooding.

"It is possible we could see some flash flooding around," he said.

"It is very hard to pinpoint where the heaviest rain will be. We will be monitoring that over the next 12 hours and beginning to issue warnings as we become more certain.

"There is the potential for both river flooding and localised, quick flash flooding.

"If you draw a line from Scottsdale down to South East Cape, the southernmost part of Tassie, that is probably where the most rain will occur."

Farmers fear floods and erosion

East coast wool farmer Jim Walters said his property at Little Swanport was desperate for rain, but not too much.

"In 2016, we had a very wet year and then it switched off at the beginning of 2017," he said.

"It is powdery dry. As bad as it has been in the last 18 months.

"I think most people on the east coast would be hand feeding to some degree. It is fairly desperate."

Mr Walters said the area had about 140mm of rain so far this year and about half that amount came in a downpour in January.

"I am a bit concerned," he said.

"The ground is so dry and hard, if you get a downpour it is just going to run off. And … it is creating erosion."

Mr Walters said he would need to move about 600 sheep in case of flooding.

"In the worst case scenario they could wash away," he said.

Winds to hit 100kph

Mr Melitsis said as well as heavy rain, strong winds were expected.

"We will see the strongest winds develop Thursday night and remain throughout most of Friday," he said.

"At this stage, we are thinking gusts of about 100 km/h along the east and south-east coastlines."

He said Friday was likely to have strong to potentially damaging gale-force south to south-easterly winds.

Snow was also expected above 1,000 metres on Thursday.

Fears for homeless living in tents

About 15 will be in tents at the Hobart showgrounds when the weather event hits.

Royal Agricultural Society of Tasmania president Scott Gadd said people had been advised to try to find shelter.

"Given what is forecast, there is no tent that is going to withstand that," he said.

"I would fully anticipate that by the time we get to the end of the weekend there will be quite a few [tents] destroyed.

"Those with cars have been advised that they may want to bunker down in their cars.

"Those that don't may be able to jump in with somebody or use some of our communal spaces to get out of the weather."

The State Emergency Service has advised people in affected areas should:
Supervise children closely
Check that family and neighbours are aware of warnings
Manage pets and livestock
Secure outdoor items including furniture and play equipment
Be prepared in case of power outages
Beware of damaged trees and power lines and take care when driving
or check for further advice
For emergency assistance contact the SES on 132500


© ABC 2018

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