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North Queensland hit with intense rainfall causing flooding as BOM issues severe storm warning

By Jake Kearnan and staff, Thursday January 7, 2021 - 00:07 EDT
ABC licensed image
Floodwaters rise and swirl under Macrossan Bridge, north-east of Charters Towers. - ABC licensed

Parts of north Queensland have been hit by massive downpours in the aftermath of ex-Tropical Cyclone Imogen, with one town receiving 100 millimetres in just an hour.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has issued more than a dozen flood warnings, and a severe weather warning for people in parts of the Peninsula, North Tropical Coast and Tablelands is now in place.

A severe thunderstorm warning was issued at 6:33pm for the south-east, Cherbourg, Logan and parts of Ipswich, Somerset, Scenic Rim, South Burnett, Toowoomba, Lockyer Valley and Brisbane council areas.

The storms are likely to produce damaging winds and heavy rainfall that may lead to flash flooding over the next several hours.

The BOM said Beaudesert had recorded 83mm of rain in one hour to 5:30pm, Woodlands Road west of Laidley recorded 57mm in one hour to 5:30pm and Highfields, north of Toowoomba recorded 68mm in one hour to 5:00pm.

A more general severe thunderstorm warning is also current for the south-east coast and parts of the Peninsula, North Tropical Coast and Tablelands, Central Highlands and Coalfields, Central West, Wide Bay and Burnett and Darling Downs and Granite Belt districts.

BOM forecaster Pieter Claassen said early on Wednesday the system sitting near the coast near Ingham was weakening.

"It is ? drifting slowly south over the next few days, so the focus of rainfall will shift south over the next few days," he said.

"So Townsville down to the central coast including Mackay as well ? it does weaken slightly so we may not see the totals we have seen in the last couple of days, but still some high falls are possible."

He said it was possible for conditions to re-intensify by the end of the week.

"Potentially more around the Townsville coast over the weekend," he said.

The Flinders Highway between Townsville and Charters Towers was likely to close at the Macrossan Bridge at Sellheim, north-east of Charters Towers.

The Burdekin River was lapping the base of the bridge at midday and the Charters Towers local disaster management group said it expected the road could be closed for at least three days.

Charters Towers Mayor Frank Beveridge said the river had been rising steadily and warned of lengthy delays.

"We're asking members of the community to exercise caution when driving, not only in relation to flooding but in relation to potholes and other debris that may be scattered on the road," he said.

Cr Beveridge said the region had received good soaking rain that graziers would welcome.

More than 100mm of rain fell in one hour in Ingham

A number of streets are awash in Ingham after more than 122mm fell in just one hour on Wednesday morning, increasing to 185mm in two hours.

Mission Beach had almost 150mm in the six hours to 2:00am and since 9:00am on Tuesday, 264mm fell around Tully, 209mm at Halifax and 196mm at Innisfail.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Service state coordinator Brian Cox said flash flooding had been a significant risk.

"We're asking people not to be complacent," he said.

"This system is not going to go away.

"Whilst it's moved off the coast of Townsville, we're still expecting over the next few days to have rain pockets of intensity.

"We've still got the effects of that system dumping a hell of a lot of water."

There have been 103 calls for help since Sunday.

There were two rescues, one swift-water rescue near Innisfail on Tuesday night and another further south near Blencoe Falls, where a car became swamped between two creeks.

Three swift-water rescue crews, police and ambulance were called to the rescue at South Johnstone near Innisfail, after a man's car became surrounded by floodwaters.

He climbed onto the roof of the car and was thrown a lifejacket, before being rescued by a raft.

There is a major flood warning for the Herbert River, just north of Ingham, with around 400mm falling in the catchment since early Sunday.

There are a number of road closures in place along the Ingham Halifax Road, Woodstock Giru Road and the Bruce Highway north of Ingham.

Hinchinbrook Mayor Ramon Jayo said the Herbert River reached 10.9 metres at the Ingham Pump Station.

"We've got major flooding still occurring in the Lower Herbert area, the river at Lower Herbert at Halifax is at 5.3 metres, we don't expect that it is going to increase too much," he said.

"The road to Lucinda is cut, the road back to Ingham is cut at both the Halifax Washaway and also at the Ana Branch Bridge and Taylors Beach is also inaccessible."

Cr Jayo said residents need to remain patient with road closures in place.

"The process particularly with state controlled roads is that they must be assessed by the Department of Transport and Main Roads before the roads can be opened to travellers," he said.

"So I would just ask the public to be patient if they're at a river or bridge crossing ? they may not see anything happening on the bridge but there is a lot happening in the background because of the testing requirements that have to be done."


© ABC 2021

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