Weather News

Heavy rain continues to drench flood-stricken north Qld

Saturday February 7, 2009 - 23:16 EDT
AAP image
A family watches as a four wheel drive crosses Plantation Creek on the Bruce Highway at the north Queensland town of Ayr on February 7, 2009. - AAP
ABC image
Floodwaters cover the Bruce Highway at the north Queensland town of Ingham on February 7, 2009. - ABC
ABC image
Locals clean up at a hair salon on in the north Queensland town of Ingham on February 5, 2009. - ABC

Emergency crews in Queensland are monitoring flooding in rivers across the state's north, as heavy rain is forecast to continue overnight between Innisfail and Bowen.

The Bruce Highway is cut between Ayr and Townsville and the towns of Tully and Ingham are isolated.

Police have asked people to limit non-essential travel if possible in the region, saying road conditions and closures will change as creeks and water courses rise and fall quickly.

Weather bureau forecaster Brian Rolstone says hundreds of millimetres of rain could fall tonight.

"Getting up around 200 millimetres in 24 hours or so - some places even higher than that - getting up to 300," he said.

"There might be some minor places down to just under 100, but it's sort of in that broad range and you can really expect the same sort of thing tomorrow - there's not that much change."

A spokesman from the weather bureau says the Herbert River in Ingham has now peaked at 12.25 metres for the second time this week.

Further south, the Houghton River is due to peak at 6am AEST and still rising.

The Tully River peaked at nine metres and the Burdekin River is now also falling.

Mr Rolstone says heavy rain is falling between Innisfail and Bowen and the system probably will not move south until Monday.

"By then the rain area will probably be just south of Townsville, maybe even south of Bowen by Tuesday," he said.

"So through the Ingham district there'll be an easing of the weather through Monday, Tuesday, then the rivers will perhaps start to go down a bit."

In Ingham, Red Cross spokeswoman Nic Lowe says about 50 people are staying in an evacuation centre overnight.

Ms Lowe says some of them have been living there for more than a week and many are worried about another flood peak tonight.

"I think it has added an extra level of tension about the place and a little bit of despair," she said.

"When we had a heavy downpour yesterday people were starting to think that maybe the levels could drop and they could get home.

"They've now realised that they could be here for sometime yet.

"Some of the families that we've got here have been here for almost a week already, so they're really keen to actually get home."

Meanwhile, Queensland Governor Penelope Wensley is to visit Ingham tomorrow and is due to arrive in floodbound town at 1:30pm AEST.

State Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg visited Ingham today and praised the emergency response, however he repeated calls for fodder drops to stranded cattle in flooded areas.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh inspected flood-ravaged Ingham on Friday, saying the State Government would contribute $500,000 to the flood donations appeal.

Emergency Management Queensland (EMQ) spokeswoman Lisa Martin says king tides are another concern.

"We're also looking at the area around Innisfail and Cairns as they've received a lot of rain over the last couple of days," she said.

Further south in Townsville, king tides are expected to swamp low-lying areas tomorrow and the Council is urging residents to move belongings to higher ground.

It is expected Sunday's king tide in Townsville will be half-a-metre higher than forecast, peaking at 4.6 metres.

Townsville Mayor Les Tyrell says the tides are abnormally high but no-one is quite sure why.

"People did get caught out a little bit last time, so the expectation is this time that it could be up to 500 millimetres higher," he said.

"People should take extra precautions."

Meanwhile, a leading climatologist says monsoonal rain in north Queensland may extend into the state's south, but not enough to provide any significant in-flows at the top of the drought-stricken Murray-Darling River system.

Although North Queensland has been awash with rain this week with moderate to major flooding in most rivers, southern states have sweltered under heatwave conditions.

Dr Roger Stone, from the University of Southern Queensland, says some models suggest the monsoonal rain could be heading south.

"Some of the models that look more closely at week-to-week patterns, especially from the United States are suggesting that some of this rain could drift further south, as far south as southern Queensland - not all of it of course - but some of the rain could drift further south on occasions," he said.

He says the extremes being encountered in Australia this week fit climate change models, but it is too early to prove a direct link to changing weather patterns.

Dr Stone says the pattern of contrasts is not unusual for this time of year, but the intensity is.

"It certainly fits the climate change models but I have to add the proviso that it's very difficult - even with extreme conditions like this - to always attribute it to climate change, but it does fit the climate change models," he said.
- Reporting by Melinda Howells and Kim Lyell

- ABC

© ABC 2008

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