‘Very scary’ as region hit with record falls
UNPRECEDENTED rainfall has broken all-time records, and closed businesses, schools and major roads after parts of the Burdekin copped more than half a metre of rain in 24 hours.
Rita Island, a community just outside Ayr, received 529mm in 24 hours; significantly more than the extreme daily rainfall of last year's monsoon event where Ingham, to the north of Townsville, received 419mm in the same time frame.
A flood watch was issued yesterday afternoon with further areas of heavy rain predicted overnight and today, with isolated falls of 300mm forecast.
With Rita Island copping the most rain in the 24 hours to 9am yesterday, Ayr was a close second with 421mm falling and Groper Creek near Home Hill copping 418mm. In just 24 hours, Ayr received nearly half its average yearly rainfall.
Burdekin Shire Council's Local Disaster Management Group and SES crews across the Burdekin, Townsville and Charters Towers responded to flooded roads and properties, with a driver trapped and having to be rescued from rising waters near Giru.
"The localised flooding we have experienced in the past 12 hours was unprecedented, with more than 500mm recorded in Rita Island and 400mm recorded in Ayr," Burdekin Mayor Lyn McLaughlin said.
"With so much rain in such a short time frame, many properties saw more water than many of us have seen in recent years."
The enormous totals pipped previous high daily total records in the Burdekin, where Home Hill recorded 395mm in one day back in March 1988, Ayr DPI station recorded 254mm also in March 1988 and Burdekin Shire Council weather station recorded 478mm in February 1947.
Councillor and Home Hill business owner Uli Liessmann said he had never seen so much rainfall in such a short amount of time, cutting the highway and closing schools and businesses.
"Business has come to a standstill here in Home Hill; we can't do anything, can't go anywhere and people who work in Ayr can't get there," Mr Liessmann said.
"It was so quick; roads were flooding before you could get sandbags filled."
About 1500 sandbags were distributed between Ayr and Home Hill.
Graham Baker from Home Hill Newsagency described the intense rainfall that has been affecting his business as "very scary".
"(Yesterday) morning it was right up on the footpath, right next to the shop. You just never know what's going to happen and when it's going to stop," he said. "We've got all the bread and milk in very short supply so hopefully the rain stops so we can get that stuff through (today)."
With the Bruce Highway cut to the north and south of Ayr for most of the day, rapid river rises also saw motorists in dangerous situations.
Swiftwater rescue teams were called to Jerona Rd near Greenacres yesterday morning to rescue a driver caught in floodwaters.
As the southern part of the country continues to burn in what has been an unprecedented summer bushfire season, Burdekin MP Dale Last said many long-time residents agreed this was the biggest flash flooding event Home Hill and Ayr had seen.
"We're obviously still counting the cost of the damage … but dozens of homes and businesses were affected with such a huge amount of rainfall in a short space of time," Mr Last said.
Residents and businesses hit by flooding were asked to lodge a report via council's customer service team to pass on to relevant agencies.
Home Hill State School, Home Hill State High School, Airville State School, Jarvisfield State School, Kalamia State School, Brandon State School and Osborne State School closed yesterday but were expected to reopen today.
Bureau of Meteorology meteorologist Peter Markworth said heavy downpours that triggered flash flooding across the Burdekin were triggered by a tropical air mass being "sucked into" a low pressure system.
"That kind of convergence is still expected around from Townsville to Mackay. We're not expecting totals like (yesterday) but we will continue to monitor the situation," Mr Markworth said.
"We're expecting those conditions to move north to Cairns and Cooktown where that monsoonal trough will sit."
Mr Markworth said more monsoonal conditions could return by Sunday for the Townsville region, although rainfall totals were not expected to be as high.