Communities across a wide swathe of eastern Australia are bracing for the potential of heavy rain and possible flooding over the next two days, with overnight falls already blamed for the death of a man in Queensland.
Queensland police were called shortly before 5am local time on Monday to assist the state’s fire and emergency service water rescue crews at Kingsthorpe near Toowoomba after two people were trapped in a vehicle in flood waters.
“A woman was rescued and taken to hospital in a stable condition for treatment, however a man was located deceased in the ute,” police said, adding investigations were ongoing as they prepare a coronial report. “A number of dogs also died.”
Rain totals topped 100mm in parts of the eastern Darling Downs and the Sunshine Coast hinterland, said Ben Domensino, senior Weatherzone meteorologist.
“Today as that low-pressure system develops, just near the south-east Queensland coast, the heaviest rain will start to occur just to the south of that low,” he said.
Helen Reid, a bureau meteorologist, said it remained unclear whether the trough moving across Queensland and into NSW would develop into an east coast low and remain near the coast or more further off into the Tasman Sea.
“It’s possible that the low would be further offshore and not as problematic as a proper east coast low,” Reid said.
East coast lows typically pack strong winds along with heavy rain, and that’s not what residents and emergency authorities want. NSW is still getting over two such lows in a week, earlier this month.
Still, “everything is wet”, Reid said. “We’ve already have such a wet environment … even 20mm is going to cause flooding in some places because there’s nowhere for the water to go.”
Monday was likely to be wetter in Queensland than south of the border, but the system was forecast to move gradually south, potentially bringing the heaviest falls overnight to parts of the northern rivers of NSW, such as Lismore and Ballina, that are still to recover from floods at the start of March.
The NSW State Emergency Service said it was preparing “for significant impacts across the north coast from the Hunter to the Tweed”. It had set up two incident control centres at Metford and Grafton, according to an SES briefing.
The SES will have a flood rescue cell at Metford and air bases at Ballina, Coffs Harbour and Cessnock. The Australian Defence Force will be among the support agencies.
“Everyone needs to be on their guard the whole time,” Reid said. “It could well be in the early hours of tomorrow that is more problematic for NSW.”
Just as Brisbane is likely to miss out on the worst of the rain, so too will Sydney, although the harbour city can expect showers each day until the weekend.
Reid said waters off eastern Australia were contributed to the series of rainfall events, including the latest one.
“Combined with the surface trough, extra heat coming up from the oceans just enhances the lift of the moisture in the system,” she said. “It just all adds up to a recipe for a lot more rain and floods.”
Domensino said waters off the southern half of the NSW coast had the larger temperature difference compared with long-run averages. Still, those off the northern half of the state were between 0.5-1C above normal.
“Certainly this is the time of the year where we typically have the warmest sea surface temperatures anyway,” he said, adding that the additional warmth “would be helping to cause evaporation and putting a bit more moisture into the atmosphere to help fuel this event”.
However he said the current rainfall would only last a couple of days. “The last system stuck around for more than a week in eastern NSW, but this one should move offshore a bit quicker,” Domensino said.