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40 responses to “SW Queensland awash”

  1. anthony nolan

    Thank you Brian for a comprehensive account. You could search the entire Oz media and not find anything as replete or interesting as that. BTW: when I was a kid I had a great grand aunt who lived at “Augathella” and made the annual trip to the Melbourne Cup. My only contact with her was when the overnight train paused in Newcastle for about three minutes for passengers and luggage but every year my small family would dutifully troop over to say hello to the grande dame. Those were the days.

  2. skepticlawyer

    Thanks for this, Brian. Looks like the citizens of my erstwhile home (Rockhampton) will be greeted with the customary flood time sprinkling of crocs in the Fitzroy!

  3. Brian

    anthony, thanks. That’s a heck of a train trip your grand aunt took.

    News reports say that in St George only 25 homes were effected, but with the extra half a metre they had expected it would have been 80% of the town.

    Cunnamulla (pop. 1,200) on the Warrego south of Charleville is now waiting for their peak. They have levies to 11m and think they might be OK. Charleville has levies too, but they were obviously overwhelmed.

    I might have underestimated the downpour in Melbourne. The paper today says 34mm in 10 minutes, which is impressive. On 17 March we had 60mm in half an hour at our place, and then another 40mm to follow. We are 7km from Brisbane GPO, which had more, perhaps 80mm in the first dump, as did Milton, the Gabba, Stones Corner and adjacent places. Generally our drainage is a bit better than you’d expect in Melbourne, but form time to time it is overwhelmed.

  4. Brian

    skepticlawyer, Rockhampton and surrounds have had quite a bit of rain. But the Fitzroy is a large Victoria-sized basin and can take quite a bit of water before serious flooding. Haven’t heard any stories of alarm.

    I should have pointed out that what swamped the SW was a monsoon low that hung around and seemed to swing back and forth like a pendulum. At one point there was a second low off the Fraser Coast (Maryborough/Hervey Bay) which brought us quite a lot of rain and then drifted north.

    The monsoon seems to have come further south than usual this year, but why, I don’t know. There’s a Kiwi long range forecaster today who said it was the moon. He predicted it all, naturally.

  5. Helen

    It must have been the tail end of that weather pattern that brought the flooding in Melbourne.
    I’d been working in the north end of the city, away from the actual floods and had no idea. Drove to Brunswick via Flemington after a relatively uneventful train journey and saw a snowdrift next to the racecourse!!!! (of course it was hail, not snow)
    Thankfully, there are no crocs in the Yarra. Yet.

  6. Helen

    Oh, meant to post this as well – via Tim Sterne on Twitter.

  7. Katz

    Thanks Brian for that continental perspective. SW Qld is a huge, flat area. I imagine that it will take weeks for that water to drain down the Darling and its tributaries. The watershed between the Barcoo and Darling system is almost imperceptible.

    Re Melbourne. We live only 2kms from the CBD. We had an intense, brief downpour accompanied by some impressive hailstones. However, we were surprised by how much more ferocious the storm was only 2kms away.

  8. Brian

    Helen @ 6,that’s impressive.

    I think the monsoon low as such has finally sputtered to its conclusion and pretty much died hereabouts. The weather map last night had a band of rain from below Melbourne to nearly half way up the Qld coast, from memory. Here the forecast is just “a few showers”, which can be quite wet-making if you are under one without a brollie.

  9. Brian

    Katz @ 7, the storm we had on Feb 17, was quite restricted in its spread. The Brisbane airport registered 3mm, I believe.

  10. Andyc

    Helen @ 5: The Melbourne storm looks like it was the result of coalescence between the monsoonal low from S. Queensland and a second low of Antarctic origin that pinched off and wandered up through the Bight. Here’s a 3-day loop weather chart from the Bureau of Meteorology that shows them merging.

  11. Brian

    That’s fascinating, Andyc, I hadn’t found that site.

  12. Eat The Rich

    Thanks for the post Brian. Your Queenslander credentials are well and truly in tact!

  13. Fine

    This is Elizabeth St Melbourne in the ’72 flood. I was in the city trying to get home from school and in was bloody scary. No-one could get into the city to pick you up, so you just had to wait it out.


    Elizabeth St has a creek running underneath it, so it’s very prone to flooding.

  14. phil@vvb

    [email protected] and [email protected] : The Fitzroy has been at about 6m through Rocky for the last week or so – no inundation and just up to the level of the riverside platform thingies. Another surge of sorts should come through from the couple of days the Farbairn dam overtopped last week. Don’t know how much of this last downpour was in the Fitzroy Basin.

  15. jane

    Bloody hell, Fine, that’s not scary, it’s terrifying!

    Having said that, here in SA, we’d be happy to take some of those flood waters off your hands.

  16. DeeCee

    You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned climate change. So far I haven’t heard an explanation as to why we should be getting all this wet weather during an El Niño.

    Because, as some top research meteorologists explained late last year (& more than once) on at least 2 TV channels (inc Win, Toowoomba) it is NOT an El Niño.

    As the aforementioned explained, very carefully before the “wet” began, Pacific temperatures were higher than recorded since records began – not all that long ago. Meteorogolists were, therefore, in “uncharted” territory, and did not want to make predictions about what the weather results would be, since they had no data on which to base predictions. That the Pacific was warmer could indicate another El Niño; or a La Niña. Or it could herald either a very dry year or, on the other hand, an exceptionally wet one. When pressed for an answer, one responded, stressing the lack of previous record of this phenomenon, that he was unable to give an answer.

    Despite this, most TV weather presenters continued to bash the El Niño drum and, with it, the Climate Change / hotter & drier drum – I guess on the grounds that, if a warm = El Niño; warmer than ever recorded = a worse El Niño. This year, hotter than recorded = superwet!

    BTW: It should be noted that, in Q, 1946/7-1976 was a superwet period. My childhood memories were of soaking summer holidays reading anything printed (no TV); not going away for holidays because Summer = WET; waiting for NSW’s Northern Rivers (esp Lismore) to flood as usual; watching for the usual Burdekin flood to wash away bridges – then, after the new one was finished, waiting to see whether the floodwaters would top the new High-level Burdekin Bridge (they didn’t). Monitoring of oceanic temperatures seems to have post-dated this period; so there is not yet enough data for accurate assessment; but it is possible that, had data been recorded, that higher (than normal for an El Niño) Pacific Ocean temperatures indicate a superwet year for Queensland-northern NSW.

  17. Doug

    Great coverage

    Further down here in the south east of NSW it has been dry – 6 weeks with nary a drop from New Year to mid February.

    when we have had decent rain it has been on the odd occasion – Christmas new Year, mid February and now this weekend when we have had some of the rain from the tropics has been channelled south and connected with a front coming in from the west.
    It has given us some really good rain but what we are not getting as much is rain from the frontal systems they seem to be sipping away to the south more frequently.

  18. philip travers

    My feeling is,if I had the money resources or even a few lousily paid jobs exploring that area in the next few months would be interesting travel.Except for mosquitoes!And sometimes some thinking needs to take place,what about someone discovering a Vortex Tube or Hilsch Tube to dry off cotton,and maybe have heaps of timely usages !? Try Exair as manufacturers and by Googling,there maybe a local supplier that needs to apply his knowledge to flood affected wealth!Great effort.Well Done!

  19. pablo

    I guess one thing we can say is that the number of these monsoonal lows that have extended continentally has been ‘above average’ for what DeeCee asserts is not an El Nino…yet.

  20. still@downfall

    Brian, I watched the Stateline program. I almost got the impression that the good Professor from SA thought Qld had the capacity to stop water at the border. I believe all the storages are full & it’s a massage amount of water coming through; not only in one river but also in every river system that eventually makes it into the Darling.

    I have family on a property down it that territory. Flood went through the one house, in the other with water going through underneath and no exposed land in sight. Has never been anywhere close in all the time since white settlement.

    There will perhaps be the biggest loss of crops around Theodore on the Dawson River heading north to the Fitzroy and Rockhampton. Here is an article about Taroom and here is an article about the next town downstream, Theodore.

  21. Danny

    This morning I saw a plaque commemorating australia’s 24 hr rainfall record: 907 mm in feb 1893 near maleny … imagine that, almost a meter in a day. That station recorded 105 inches the first 6 weeks of the year.

    The national library has a collection of photos from those floods , one showing the scale of inundation well is a view from milton across to west end

    Bloke from out west nearly died of fright
    ’cause the river rose 35 feet last night

    Rain in me beer ,rain in me grub
    They’ve just fitted anchors to the Garrudunga pub”

  22. Blair

    The El Nino relationship with rainfall mostly runs from winter to early summer. There’s not much connection between El Nino and rainfall from January onwards, and quite a few El Nino events have ended with spectacular rains sometime in the January-March period, although this year is more spectacular than most.

    The Bureau’s put out a statement at http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/current/special-statements.shtml, although this hasn’t (yet) been updated to include anything about the events further south since Friday.

  23. Crass

    We have had a fair bit of water through Rocky – the Council had to close the riverbank carparks and they’re still closed today. Apparently we are expecting more rainfall tomorrow, but the water level has dropped considerably since Friday.

  24. Brian

    Blair @ 22, thanks for the information and the link. The BOM site is a bit of a rabbit warren, but contains all sorts of riches if you know where to find them.

    [email protected] @ 20, my reaction to Prof Young was that for the Qld authorities there was nothing left to decide about water retention on this occasion. I see from the link that Taroom (south of Theodore) got 220mm since Feb 25.

    On the map there is a thin yellow line from Goondiwindi up to Mt Morgan. For those who don’t know, that’s the Leichhardt Highway, part of a transport route from Melbourne up to Rockhampton and beyond, which is now cut at Theodore. It crosses the road to Roma at Miles. I started the “Get Directions” line at Dulacca, 45km west of Miles as a guess from the Courier mail map.

    The local ABC photos show the Dogwood Creek at Miles flowing strongly. It rises NE of Miles. So I’m thinking that the affected area extends perhaps 100km further east than I showed. [email protected] would know.

  25. still@downfall

    Yes the rain did extend further east; I received 132 mm on the 1st & 2nd March, followed by 21mm on the 5th. The rain did go as far east as Dalby before lighting right off. It was on the 5th that Dalby to Toowoomba received rain. This is a very much a “brown” spot that has up to now received very little. Check out Toowoomba’s dam levels, still very low.

    In the Dawson/ Fitzroy catchment, the area around Taroom has been wet since early January of 2010, some around there have already received their annual rainfall in two months. Been told that in those parts the sandflies will carry you away.

  26. Brian

    I heard that the Toowoomba dam was just over 10% and in the Upper Burnett (north of Kingaroy) there were dams with less than 10%. So as usual there are a few places that miss out.

  27. Paul Norton

    It’s worth recalling (for those of us who were old enough) SEQ’s dismally wet late summer and early autumn in 1990, a year which turned out to be the warmest on record to that time.

    The Brisbane Region group of the New Left Party had scheduled its regional conference (a preliminary to the national Founding Conference of the NLP) for a weekend in April. The previous seven weekends had all been comprehensively rained out. As fate would have it the Saturday of the conference weekend dawned clear, cloudless and gloriously sunny, the weekend continued in similar vein, and all but seven of us decided they had better things to do in such weather than attend a meeting all weekend.

  28. David Irving (no relation)

    Must’ve made achieving consensus pretty simple, Paul @ 27. (I hate well-attended meetings. They drag on for far too long, as you always have at least one monomaniac who’s connection to the point of discussion is tenuous at best.)

  29. still@downfall

    A report from ABC Rural called, Will the Murray-Darling miss out?
    It’s got an interesting photo slideshow along with an audio track.

    This article about crop losses along the Dawson river.

  30. Brian

    I’ve updated the post with a more detailed map of the eastern part of the affected area.

    If you go to Google Images and search Darling River map you’ll find plenty. This one is perhaps the best of the whole MD basin, this one shows the subsystems within the basin. The floods have been in the Warrego-Paroo and the Maranoa-Balonne, plus the Dawson to the north of the eastern part and the western rivers and creeks that flow into Lake Eyre. The Border Rivers do not seem to have been a problem.

    The focus has now moved to Cunnamulla, Dirrinbandi and Thallon in the south, while Theodore in the north remains in flood. In Cunnamulla the floods peaked about a metre short of the 11 metre levies, Thallon had no such protection.

    RN’s PM had a roundup of the floods. When Mark Colvin says “Central Queensland towns are starting to mop up” he really means Southwestern Queensland towns. We always did confuse the Mexicans. :)

  31. Brian

    I heard a weatherman talking about the Melbourne storm today. He confirmed, as surmised by Helen and shown by Andyc that moisture floated down from Queensland where it joined up with a front coming through from the west.

    The hail was said to be 10cm in diametre, probably a record for Melbourne. The main damage was caused by a “supercell”. Explanations I’ve heard are a bit different from this in Wikipedia.

    We had a famous one starting in The Gap, the suburb next door to me, in November 2008. It was explained that a cell developed within the storm, with winds up to 200kph. The cell broke through the bottom of the storm (that time oddly enough on the leeward side of the slopes of Mt Coot-tha) and a tongue hit the ground with great force tearing a strip about 15km long through the suburbs. It was well-defined. One house could be untouched, the one next door unroofed.

    The first 8 shots in this gallery gives you some idea of the mayhem caused.

    So a down draft rather than an updraft was the main feature.

  32. Brian

    Brisbane’s dams have hit an amazing 93.8%. Up from about 16% three and a half years ago. That gives us about 5 years at present rates of usage.

    The authorities are looking at leaving in place the current restrictions at 200 liters per person per day in order to postpone building desal plants. I don’t think it would bother people in Brisbane much. We’ve been on restrictions for over four years and I think people understand that we can’t get back to our old profligate ways. The attitudes on the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast are another matter.

  33. Stuart Copeland

    Thanks Brian for a really informative summary of what has been happening – a little local knowledge goes a long way. The Link to the galleries from the Taroom flood brought back memories – I grew up on the Dawson (just on the other side of the bridge) and the amount of water in that system can be amazing. There has been some flooding in Theodore as a result.

    Interesting too that the “Copeland” bridge at Taroom went underwater – it is much higher than the old timber bridge that would regularly go under. Dad was, and still is, pleased it was not called the Bill Copeland memorial bridge!

    Toowoomba dam capacity is now around 16% – low but a big improvement.

  34. FDB

    “the “Copeland” bridge”

    Lemme guess… heavy on the hi-hats and syncopation?

  35. David Irving (no relation)

    Yeah, but only in the middle eight, FDB.

  36. Brian

    Thanks Stuart. The Courier Mail and the ABC (TV and radio) have done well, I think, in covering the floods. Here’s a story and pic of the Copeland Bridge at Taroom, or what you can see of it.

    Story and pix of Theodore here.

    More photos from ABC Southern Queensland and Capricornia here and on the main page.

    The talk now is that the worst is over. I’ve noticed that the floods were quickly up and down in Roma and Charleville, but in other places downstream the seem to be hanging around peak levels for days on end.

    People are counting the cost. I’ve heard $70 million worth of cotton gone. The Charleville meatworks have closed for at least a month, not because of flood damage but because they can’t get product out over the broken roads.

    Speaking of which, I’ve updated the post with a photo from [email protected] of the road surface gone south of St George.

    The Bligh Government has been downgrading rail services to the Southwest in favour of road.

  37. Brian

    Michael Cathcart today did an interview with three Profs on Bush Telegraph – Dianne Bell, Mike Young and Richard Kingston. Best yet coverage of what happens south of the Qld border, a pity they only keep the audio of their stories for two weeks. Come one, ABC, try harder!

    In the post I reported that the total rain was estimated at 403,000 gigalitres. By the favourite Australian measure of the Sydney Harbour, that’s 806 sydharbs. Probably less than half that is heading for the Darling River, but it’s still a lot of water. I understand that Cubbie takes one sydharb in total. One of the profs said that the biggest “dam” was the underground acquifers near the river. In drought they drain into the river, in flood they spread out sideways from the river. He sai it would possibly take 2,000 gigalitres (four sydharbs) to replenish the underground system, I think he meant of the lower Murray. Anyway it’s large.

    Another interesting bit of information was that the Government is mainly buying up “low security” (cheap) and some “general security” water rights. They said that the Govt should also buy high security water rights, so that they had water for the environment during severe drought when it was most needed.

    But they need to buy across the range so that the mid-range floods (3-5 year) can be replicated in the areas that need them.

  38. Derek Barry

    Sorry I am a bit late in seeing your article Brian, but I work for the local paper here in Roma. Good to see you giving it a bit of coverage. The local council (Maranoa) are calling it a “one in a hundred year event” (though I think this will become more commonplace) and it is by far the biggest flood ever in the region. 200 homes in town were inundated and many more in outlying areas. Because Roma is at the top of the basin, there simply wasn’t enough time to get a good emergency evacuation plan going before it hit.

    I posted my story & photos of the flood the day of the flood
    here and the day after

  39. Brian

    Thanks for the links, Derek.

    Just about all done here, but one last story.

    Today Kelly Higgions-Devine on local radio spoke to Jane Patterson of ABC Country, who was visiting Meandarra, on a road less travelled.

    Meandarra, population a few hundred, had about 25 houses with water in them. Jane was most impressed with the swarms of mosquitoes which she said were as big as Shetland ponies. They were only Scotch Greys.

    There’s a slide show here. Goes on a bit, but masses of water.

  40. Brian

    Three more bits of information.

    In the post I said that Charleville was on the Warrego River and that the levies were presumably overwhelmed. They weren’t. The problem was Bradley’s Creek, or Bradley’s Gully, which runs through the middle of town.

    Now they are talking about the need to do flood mitigation work on that, which would cost millions.

    Secondly, during the big wet a number of centres recorded record daily rainfall totals, including 188mm at Bedourie on March 1, and 168mm at Birdsville. Bedourie has an annual average rainfall of 262mm.

    Third, last Friday Brisbane’s major dams reached 96.9% full. When the Wivenhoe is deemed full, apparently it is only half full, the other half being preserved for flood mitigation. There has been a suggestion that the dam be allowed to fill beyond the 50% level for water storage purposes. Not sure that’s smart.

    I remember the 1974 flood and the records show (see p.14) that the 1890 floods were nearly 50% bigger.