Weather News

Vital outback weather radar switched on amid intense Queensland wet season

Tuesday December 7, 2021 - 01:58 AEDT
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Towns like Julia Creek were inundated in the floods. - ABC

In 2019, devastating floods killed half a million head of livestock and caused more than $5.68 billion worth of damage in north-west Queensland.

Many graziers were unprepared for the onslaught ? they were relying on inaccurate data because of the absence of weather radar in the region.

Richmond grazier Rob Ievers remembers the shock after monsoonal rain totals caught farmers off guard.

"We were forecast to get 60mm one night," he said.

"Instead, we ended up with 300mm.

"There was no warning ? no-one was ready."

But authorities hope a new radar near Charters Towers will prevent history repeating itself.

Installed just in time for a La Niña wet season, the radar provides residents with crucial information on the behaviour of the Burke, Burdekin, Herbet, Gilbert and Mitchell river systems, as well as Queensland's longest river, the Flinders.

"Up until now, this huge area of Queensland has not had reliable weather coverage," Mr Ievers said.

"The weather is the biggest thing that affects our way of life and we were brushed over like we weren't even there."

Real-time updates

The radar has been installed alongside several rain gauges that will provide real-time information residents can access online.

"This sort of information will reach people hundreds of kilometres up and down these massive river systems so that, in the event of flooding, graziers can start shifting cattle and preparing like they normally do," Richmond Shire Council Mayor John Wharton said.

The Greenvale radar is one of two that will service the region.

Another is planned to go live in Richmond by mid-2022, according to the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM).

"Eighty per cent of the BOM's internet traffic goes to our radar sites,'' meteorologist Peter Stone said.

"Radars are incredibly important during emergency weather events and allow our customers to track immediate information."

Brighter future on the floodplains

Mr Ievers lost most of his 3,500 head of cattle after the Flinders River burst and flooded his station, south of Richmond, back in 2019.

The extra coverage across the north-west blackspot will allow graziers to move cattle to higher ground before severe weather and flooding persists.

"If you tune into the television weather it's absolutely hopeless, because they focus on the eastern seaboard ? not us," Mr Ievers said.

"Being able to log on to the radar sites is absolutely fantastic news for our stations."

Flinders Shire Mayor and grazier Jane McNamara was excited for the new data after her shire was isolated by floodwaters in 2019.

"Obviously it's a huge issue when you have major river systems like the Flinders with absolutely no radar," she said.

"This is a big win for us ? the government has listened after the floods."


© ABC 2021

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