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Flooding rain in tropical Queensland

Ben Domensino, Tuesday January 28, 2020 - 12:00 EDT

Heavy rain is causing flooding in parts of tropical Queensland this week, with some places receiving their heaviest rain in decades during the last 24 hours.

A tropical low pressure system centred over the Gulf of Carpentaria and an associated trough extending across northern Queenslan are producing widespread rain and thunderstorms this week.

During the 24 hours to 9am on Tuesday, widespread falls of 50-100mm were recorded between Townsville and Mackay. A gauge at Rita Island received a whopping 529mm during this period as a near-stationary line of converging winds caused persistent and heavy rain. Nearby, Ayr's 327.8mm was their highest daily total on record, with data back to 1951. Townsville picked up 99mm, its best rain since February last year.

Image: Composite satellite and radar image, showing widespread rain across northern Queensland at 9am AEST on Tuesday.

Further west, steady rain brought 117.4mm to Winton Airport and 154.4mm to Normanton Airport during the 24 hours to 9am on Tuesday. This was the heaviest daily rain in records dating back to 2002 at both sites.

Rain and thunderstorms also affected parts of northern Queensland each day over the weekend. This multi-day rainfall has saturated some river catchments and primed them for flooding. On Tuesday morning, a flood watch and numerous minor-to-moderate flood warnings were in place across northern Queensland, along with a severe weather and severe thunderstorm warning.

While a few places have seen record-breaking daily rain this week, this system won't cause flooding on the same scale or magnitude as that seen last summer in northeastern Australia.

Early in 2019, Townsville received 1259.8mm of rain in the 10 days to February 8th, easily beating their previous 10-day record of 925.5mm from 1953. By contrast, this week's rain won't be as relentless. 

The low pressure system over the Gulf of Carpentaria will drift over land during the next few days, causing rain and storms to spread towards central and eventually southern Australia. Warnings may be issued later in the week for in these parts of the country.

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