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More heavy rain looms for flood-weary northern Queensland

Ben Domensino, Friday February 1, 2019 - 12:28 AEDT

A major flooding event is unfolding across northern Queensland this week, with more heavy rain likely to fall into overflowing rivers in the coming days.

More than one metre of rain has fallen in parts of Queensland's central tropics during the last week. As of 9am on Friday, a gauge at Upper Bluewater near Townsville had collected 1,227mm during the last seven days, with 939mm falling within the last 72 hours.

In response to this deluge, the Ross River Dam spillway was opened for the first time since 2014 on Wednesday. By 11am on Thursday, the dam had reached 140 per cent of its capacity, its highest level in seven years. By 10am on Friday, the dam had reached 175 per cent for the first time in 10 years of records.

Townsville Airport's 216mm during the 24 hours to 9am on Friday is their highest daily total in a decade. It also brings their total for the last six days to 640mm, which is more than half of the site's annual average of 1128mm.

Woolshed, to the southwest of Townsville, just had its wettest week in more than 20 years after receiving 1,008mm during the last seven days. Mingela's 515mm during the last seven days is their highest weekly total in 47 years.

Image: False coloured composite visible/infrared satellite image showing clouds caused by a topical low and monsoon trough over northern Queensland on Friday.

There has been so much rain over the last few days that record flood peaks have occurred in some rivers near Townsville.

The Ross River at Aplin Weir exceeded two metres on Friday morning, exceeding its previous record height of 1.77 metres from 1998. According to the Bureau of Meteorology, the river may swell further and exceed 2.9 metres over the weekend.

Major Creek, to the south of Townsville, exceeded 12.7 metres on Thursday evening, beating the previous record of 11.72 metres from March 1990.

Further north, Cairns Airport received 119mm during the 24 hours to 9am on Friday and has now picked up 650mm during the last seven days. This is one third of their average annual rainfall.

While the heaviest rain during the past week has occurred near Queensland's eastern tropical coast, there have also been some impressive falls in the state's northwest.

Richmond's 113mm during the 24 hours to 9am on Friday is more than a month's worth of rain at this time of year. Another rain gauge at Miranda Creek, to the northeast of Mount Isa, received 265mm during the last 24 hours.

The recent rain and further heavy falls during the coming days are expected to cause major flooding in the Flinders and Cloncurry Rivers, with flood warnings in place.

This has been an abrupt change from the record-breaking heat that plagued northwest Queensland during the last couple of months. Cloncurry and Camooweal both registered more than 40 days at or above 40 degrees during December and January, which had never previously been recorded in Queensland. Both locations are only forecast to reach 29 degrees on Friday.

This week's flooding rain has been caused by a near stationary monsoon trough and tropical low sitting over northern Queensland. With these systems unlikely to move much during the next 5-7 days, heavy rain and thunderstorms should continue to affect already flooded parts of the state during the next week.

- Weatherzone

© Weatherzone 2019

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