Townsville flood zone faces further inundation as council moves to fully open dam spillway gates

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Updated

February 03, 2019 18:49:16

Townsville residents have been urged to move to higher ground, with the council announcing the spillway gates of the city’s Ross River Dam may be fully opened from 8:30pm on Sunday.

Key points:

  • Townsville sets a new seven-day rainfall record as flood emergency continues
  • Opening the spillway would release up to 2,000 cubic metres of water per second between 8:30pm Sunday and 6:00am Monday
  • Flooding from the dam release would affect many suburbs

The warning came as the north Queensland city’s flood emergency, caused by record-breaking rain in the region over the past week, continued.

The Townsville Council said the opening of the gates would see the release of up to 2,000 cubic metres of water per second from the dam between 8:30pm on Sunday and 6:00am on Monday, and rapid rises of the Ross River would cause flooding in many suburbs.

Affected suburbs would include 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.

The council urged residents to move away from riverbanks and get to higher ground before 8:30pm.

It said residents remaining in their homes in those affected suburbs should move to the highest ground in their dwelling before 8:30pm.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) issued a severe weather warning at 4:53pm Sunday predicting heavy rainfall, destructive winds and significant flash flooding between Ingham and Bowen, potentially extending as far south as Mackay from Monday.

BOM said the monsoon trough was expected to shift slowly south over the next day or two to extend from Bowen, west to Hughenden and into the Gulf Country.

Further heavy rainfall has been predicted for already saturated catchments in the area for the week ahead.

BOM forecaster Dean Narramore said at 11:30am Sunday, there had been some extraordinary rainfall numbers coming in for the Townsville area, with a number of locations receiving over a metre of rain over in the last seven days.

“Particularly a number of locations to the west of Townsville where we’ve seen 1.4 to 1.6 metres of rain — for some locations this is approaching their yearly average in just a week,” Mr Narramore said.

Earlier on Sunday, BOM state manager Bruce Gunn said tornado-strength winds were possible along the north Queensland coast during the day.

Mr Gunn also said six-hour rain totals of 150-200 millimetres were predicted along the coast from Ingham to Bowen during Sunday, accompanied by strong wind gusts.

Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill said on Sunday morning about 1,000 cubic metres of water a second was still going over the Ross River Dam spillway.

By midday Sunday, the dam had risen above 231 per cent capacity, while a severe storm warning at 12:43pm noted “intense” rain falling over the catchment.

“We don’t know how much rain is still likely to flow into the Ross River Dam catchment,” Cr Hill said.

“We cannot give you any certainty about what we are going to need to do into the future.

On Sunday, the Army delivered 90,000 sandbags to affected Townsville homes.

Townsville disaster coordinator Assistant Chief Superintendent Steve Munro said there were 82,000 houses in Townsville and flood modelling predicted up to a quarter would be affected by flooding in the worst-case scenario.

“At the moment, we have probably got 400, 500 [homes] affected [by flooding],” he said.

“The modelling says what it is going to say — it could move up to the 10,000, 20,000 [homes]. We don’t want to get to that stage [but] we can’t control that.”

Queensland Education Minister Grace Grace has confirmed all state schools in Townsville and surrounding areas will remain closed on Monday.

Ms Grace said the decision to close all state schools in the flood zone had been made in the interests of the safety and welfare of staff, students and school communities.

Heavy falls over Ingham

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) chief superintendent Lance Duncan said swift water specialists remained on alert, with warnings of more torrential rain and flash flooding between Ingham, Townsville and Bowen over the next two days.

“QFES has assisted in 220 relocations of people from their residences,” he said.

“The SES has received about 570 requests for assistance and that’s just over the last 24 hours and working with the Defence Force too, the SES [distributing] 20,000 sandbags in the Townsville area.”

Meanwhile, trucks are backed up for kilometres at Cardwell in far north Queensland waiting for the Bruce Highway to reopen.

The Bruce Highway is closed at Arnot Creek, about 125 kilometres north of Townsville, and at several spots near Ingham.

Authorities are stopping drivers who are trying to head south at Cardwell, with an increasing number of travellers and tourists stuck in the small coastal town.

Some truck drivers like Andrew Kmet are not only concerned for their deliveries but also for their families.

“We live at Bushland Beach in Townsville and my wife Tamara is with my four children aged between three and six years old,” he said.

“I just want to get home, sandbag it, and make sure everything is alright.

“I did deliveries in Cairns and here last night and they closed it shortly after.

“My main problem is being stopped where I know the water isn’t even coming up to my diffs and I can get through, but they won’t let me.”

The highway has been closed at Arnot Creek since about 11:30pm on Saturday, and with more rain forecast to hit the region on Sunday and Monday, it remains uncertain when it will reopen.

Police remain on the other side of the road closures to deter anyone who might take the risk.

There have also been more falls in western Queensland.

Julius Dam near Mount Isa in the state’s north-west received 199mm in the past 24 hours.

Mount Isa and Cloncurry have received 50 to 80mm and further heavy falls are expected today and tomorrow.

Topics:

floods,

disasters-and-accidents,

weather,

rainfall,

townsville-4810,

qld,

cairns-4870,

mackay-4740,

innisfail-4860,

brisbane-4000,

cardwell-4849,

mundingburra-4812,

australia

First posted

February 03, 2019 08:56:00



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