City on high alert after city inundated with record rainfall


Residents in sodden Townsville have been urged to seek higher ground as heavy downpours forced the floodgates to the city’s swollen Ross River Dam to be completely opened.

With up to 500 homes are already under water, a heavy deluge of rain on Sunday pushed levels to almost 250 per cent capacity with authorities opening the floodgates, almost doubling the amount of water flowing out of the catchment. Close to 2000 cubic metres of water was surging out of the dam every second after 9pm on Sunday, prompting warnings from the Bureau of Meteorology to residents in low lying areas.

“You can expect high velocity flows and unprecedented areas of flooding to occur in the Ross River Catchment,” BoM spokesman Bruce Gunn said in a video statement.

“It could change continuously and unpredictably over the course of this evening into (Monday) morning.” The Ross River at Aplin Weir was at 3.11 metres and rising late on Sunday night, with authorities expecting it to reach four metres, The extra water could flood more homes along the river with people in several suburbs including Rosslea, Hermit Park and Townsville City told to move to higher ground immediately.

The monsoon trough that’s been dumping vast amounts of rain on the state’s north for a week has rewritten Townsville’s record books.

In just seven days, the city copped a staggering 1012mm, eclipsing the previous record of 886mm set on the city’s so-called Night of Noah when vast swathes of the city went under back in 1998.

Parts of north and central Queensland could get another half a metre to a metre of rain over the next few days.

Authorities have pleaded with Townsville residents who are still in their homes to get ready.

“We don’t know when this event will end,” Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill said. “We cannot give you any certainty about what we are going to need to do into the future.”

Townsville Airport announced it had cancelled all flights in and out of the facility just after 6pm due to safety concerns.

With water levels at waist and chest height in some suburban streets, local police chief and District Disaster Coordinator Steve Munro said the crisis was only half over.

If things go the city’s way, the flood might not affect any or many more than the 400 to 500 properties already inundated.

But he warned: “It could move up to the 10,000, 20,000 (mark). That’s the worst case scenario we’re looking at if things keep going pear-shaped. We don’t want to get to that stage.” The monsoon trough has brought driving rain to other parts of the state too, including drought-hit communities out west.

At Hughenden, properties are facing inundation and the forecast is for more major falls out there, as far as Mount Isa near the Northern Territory border. Back on the east coast, communities from Ingham to Mackay, 500km away, are at risk of flash flooding and damaging winds, including the possibility of tornadoes.

In Townsville, people are sharing dramatic stories of what they had to do to escape fast-rising flood waters.

Hermit Park resident Randall Parker used a blow-up air bed to float his family to safety after water rapidly swallowed his unit.

“It is just unbelievable … It just keeps bucketing down,” he told The Sunday Mail.

“I just had to get the family out including a newborn baby as quick as possible.”

Residents in many suburbs across Townsville are warned that they may experience flooding from rapid rises of the Ross River.

This includes Rosslea, Hermit Park, Railway Estate, Townsville City, Oonoonba, Idalia, Cluden, West End, Rowes Bay, Garbutt, Aitkenvale, Cranbrook, Currajong, Mysterton, Pimlico, Mundingburra, Douglas, Annandale, Kirwan and Thuringowa Central and South Townsville areas.

Earlier today emergency services were being pulled out of flooded areas in Townsville, with the Townsville Bulletin reporting Australian Defence Service and other services had been instructed to withdraw from low-lying areas.

A warning message from authorities also claimed “an unprecedented amount of water” was about to inundate the city caused by a band of heavy rain combined with spill from Ross River Dam.

Authorities have pleaded with Townsville residents who are still in their homes to get ready.

“We don’t know when this event will end,” Mayor Jenny Hill said. In the space of a few short hours on Sunday, another intense downpour pushed up water levels in the city’s swollen Ross River Dam up by almost 10 per cent, to 237 per cent of capacity.

While there are no concerns about the dam’s integrity, Ms Hill hinted at the possibility she may have to approve higher water releases — beyond the 1000 cubic metres per second that’s currently occurring.

That would flood more low-lying homes along the river, but might be needed for the greater good.

“We cannot give you any certainty about what we are going to need to do into the future.” With water levels at waist and chest height in some suburban streets, local police chief and District Disaster Coordinator Steve Munro said the crisis was only half over.

If things go the city’s way, the flood might not affect any or many more than the 400 to 500 properties already inundated.

But he warned: “It could move up to the 10,000, 20,000 (mark). That’s the worst case scenario we’re looking at if things keep going pear-shaped. We don’t want to get to that stage.” The monsoon trough has brought driving rain to other parts of the state too, including drought-hit communities out west.

At Hughenden, properties are facing inundation and the forecast is for more major falls out there, as far as Mount Isa near the Northern Territory border. Back on the east coast, communities from Ingham to Mackay, 500km away, are at risk of flash flooding and damaging winds, including the possibility of tornadoes.

In Townsville, people are sharing dramatic stories of what they had to do to escape fast-rising flood waters.

Hermit Park resident Randall Parker used a blow-up air bed to float his family to safety after water rapidly swallowed his unit.

“It is just unbelievable … It just keeps bucketing down,” he told The Sunday Mail.

“I just had to get the family out including a newborn baby as quick as possible.”

Meanwhile, a Major Flood Warning has been issued for the Haughton River after recent bursts of heavy rainfall resulted in catchment wide totals of 50-100mm in the last six hours to 4pm Sunday, with higher isolated totals up to 150mm recorded in the lower reaches of the catchment around Alligator and Whites Creeks.

AFFECTED AREAS:

Further heavy rainfall is likely over the next few days.

Major Creek: Major flooding will continue along Major Creek during Sunday.

Haughton River: Major flood levels are rising along the Haughton River between Mt Piccaninny and Giru during Sunday afternoon.

No recent observations are available at Giru along the Haughton River. The most recent reading was 3.05m at 11:00am on Sunday with major flooding continuing. River levels at Giru are expected to remain above the major flood level (2.50m) for the remainder of the weekend.

SUBURBS ON FLOOD ALERTS: Annandale, Black River, Bluewater, Burdell, Cluden, Condon, Currajong, Deeragun, Douglas, Garbutt, Hermit Park, Hyde Park, Idalia, Jensen, Kelso, Kirwan, Mundingburra, Mysterton, North Ward, Oonoonba, Railway Estate, Rasmussen, Rosslea, South Townsville and Townsville City.

Flood Safety Advice: Remember: If it’s flooded, forget it. For flood emergency assistance contact the SES on 132 500. For life threatening emergencies, call triple-0 (000) immediately.

Current emergency information is available at www.qld.gov.au/alerts

For the latest warning, rainfall and river information visit the Bureau of Meteorology’s website.

— AAP, Peter Michael, Clare Armstrong, Tess Ikonomou & Sophie Chirgwin, The Sunday Mail (Qld).





Read full article