Flood-hit parts of Queensland have been warned to brace for rising waters on Sunday after another night of incessant rain and even more “intense” downpours forecast for the daylight hours.
The Bureau of Meteorology updated its weather alerts early Sunday with warnings of “major” flooding in the already drenched cities of Gympie (which was ordered to evacuate on Saturday), Maryborough, the Sunshine Coast and the Lockyer Valley area.
Heavy rainfall overnight Sunday has already pushed the Mary River at Gympie above the 1999 flood level and it’s expected to rise further on Sunday after huge rainfall totals were recorded in its upper reaches, with some isolated totals of up to 950mm since Thursday morning.
“Further heavy rainfall is forecast for the remainder of Sunday, which is likely to lead to further significant river level rises,” the BOM warned in its bulletin at 4.30am Sunday.
The Sunshine Coast copped rainfall totals above 430 mm in the 24 hours to 9pm Saturday and further “heavy to intense rainfall” is forecast into Sunday.
The flooded upper reaches of the Mary River in the Sunshine Coast hinterland will flow to Gympie in coming days, adding to the gold rush town’s woes.
Severe weather warnings span almost 1000km of coastline from Bundaberg in the Wide Bay-Burnett region of Queensland through to Port Macquarie on the NSW Mid North Coast.
In Queensland, the “completely unpredictable” extreme rain event killed five people, with hundreds evacuated.
The body of a 37-year-old Goomboorian man missing since Friday in floodwaters near Gympie, north of the Sunshine Coast, was found by police divers on Saturday.
The discovery came after a female SES volunteer was killed when a car she was in was swept away en-route to a rescue near Ipswich on Friday night.
In NSW, a man died on the Central Coast on Friday morning after his LandCruiser was carried away in floodwaters.
Queensland’s Deputy Police Commissioner Steve Gollschewski urged people not to leave their homes unless they absolutely had to.
“We do not want to lose any more people, so please, please, if it’s flooded, forget it,” he said.
In Gympie, 700 people living along the swollen Mary River — expected to rise above its highest level in 23 years in the next 24 hours — began evacuating, while supplies were delivered to an Indigenous community in nearby Cherbourg set to be cut off by floodwaters.
Heavy rainfall and potential flash flooding are forecast from Kingaroy through to the NSW border on Sunday.
Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner on Saturday evening issued a flood warning for 16 suburbs along the Brisbane River, saying “several thousand properties” could be inundated.
Residents in low-lying areas of Brisbane city, Bulimba, Hamilton, Milton, New Farm, Newstead, Norman Park, Oxley, Rocklea, South Brisbane, St Lucia, Teneriffe, Toowong, West End, Windsor and Yeronga were urged to be prepared to act.
In NSW, a severe weather alert for Sunday spans 450km from the Queensland border through to Port Macquarie.
There is a risk of “life-threatening flash flooding particularly during Sunday afternoon and evening” across the Northern Rivers and Mid North Coast, in areas including Lismore, Grafton, Coffs Harbour and Dorrigo, said Gabrielle Woodhouse, Senior Meteorologist from the Bureau of Meteorology.
On Sunday and into Monday, the Northern Rivers and Mid North Coast are expected to see “widespread, high rainfall totals” exceeding 100mm, she said.
“This is falling on already wet catchments. What this means is that we’re looking at further river rises and a really increased risk of flash flooding.”
The federal government said disaster assistance had been activated for 10 local councils in Queensland’s southeast.
The funds will go to clean-up efforts in the Fraser Coast, Gold Coast, Gympie, Ipswich, Lockyer Valley, Logan, Noosa, North Burnett, Sunshine Coast and Toowoomba LGAs, and will be jointly funded by the federal and state governments.