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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Torrential rain, tornados on Queensland coast causing flash flooding and damage

Monday night: Significant flooding events are ocurring at Bundaberg, Gympie, Maryborough, Ipswich, Warwick and in the Lockyer Valley. Rockhampton is expecting significant flood from the Fitzroy river on the weekend. There have been four deaths so far confirmed and two people missing. Nearly 180,000 properties across SE Queensland are still without power Monday night reports Energex. Storm system now bringing torrential rain and flooding to NSW coast, expected to be over Sydney Tuesday dawn and the Illawarra during Tuesday morning before heading out to sea.

In Bundaberg the Burnett River is at 9.2 metres and rising fast, with flow speeds of about 40knots (70km/hr). It is expected to peak at a record level of 9.5 metres late on Tuesday. There was mandatory evacuations carried out today affecting about 5000 people, with over 1500 people from 1000 properties are in evacuation centres. 16 helicopters were brought in, including 4 Black Hawks from the Australian Defence Force to rescue people from house roofs after flood waters rose rapidly today. Patients from Bundaberg hospital are being evacuated to Brisbane.

Sunday 6pm: Rain Likely to continue overnight then subside as the system moves south into NSW. Substantial flooding is occurring in Gladstone, Bundaberg, and Gympie much higher than the 2011 floods. Moderate flooding is expected Monday and Tuesday on the Bremer and Brisbane rivers with up to 3,600 Brisbane properties likely to be impacted, significantly less than the 2011 floods. Brisbane City Council have released flood maps for people to prepare. Flood waters will peak on Monday in Ipswich and Moggill and Tuesday night in Brisbane, where another peak is expected on Wednesday afternoon.

It was reported by Energex at 6.08pm Sunday 27 January that nearly 100,000 customers were without power in south east Queensland. By 7:48pm the number had climbed to 124,845. At 10:18pm 154,497 customers were without power. Just after midnight on Monday 12:28am power was off for 179,835 customers.

Related: Official alert information: | Emergency QLD media releases | Climate change now affects all weather events

Record flooding in Bundaberg

On Monday night in an interview on the ABC 7.30 Report current affairs show the Premier Campbell Newman gave a quick appraisal of the dire flood situation in Bundaberg:

"Well the big issue is in Bundaberg this evening. We've had a very grave concern about the North Bundaberg area. You see, we are seeing a flood that is bigger than anything that has hit the city before - bigger than 1942, bigger than the 1890s. And what we're seeing is North Bundaberg being sort of split up into at least a couple of islands and people have been cut off by the floodwaters. The water is extremely swift-moving - up to 40 knots, we've been told. And that's why this afternoon we've mobilised at least 14 helicopters, two Army Black Hawks amongst that group with 12 civilian and we've moved at least a thousand people out of North Bundaberg to the Oakley school. And then my most recent advice was at least 200 have then been moved from there to the airport. So we're trying to get people out before it's dark. We're trying to make sure that we get everybody. And that is the thing that's particularly occupying our time."

"Now, the other thing we're also doing now is planning for the evacuation of the hospital. About 131 patients will be moved and I can't give you any more detail than that, but that is what we're working on right now."

Monday morning: the rain system has moved south into New South Wales, but flood waters are still rising in Bundaberg. The flood in Bundaberg is expected to break all records, with water levels at 8.7 metres at 5am (AEST) on Monday. It is likely this flood will also exceed the flood that wasn't properly recorded in the 1890s.

A Severe weather update - Monday, 28 January 2013 advises: "The State Emergency Service (SES) received more than 1,800 requests for assistance in the 24 hours to 4am Monday, 28 January 2013. More than 830 of these jobs were concentrated in the North Coast region, particularly around Bundaberg. There were more than 550 jobs in the South East Region particularly around the Lockyer Valley, Laidley and the Gold Coast. Brisbane also recorded a large volume of requests for SES assistance. The most common jobs were leaking roofs, flood water threatening property, sandbagging and fallen trees."

"Queensland Fire and Rescue Service (QFRS) personnel responded to approximately 53 swift water rescue cases across Queensland yesterday. Overnight swift water rescue technicians attended 9 cases in Worongary, Jimboomba, Laidley, Greenbank, Fernvale, Moorina (near Caboolture), Bundaberg North and Ducklo."

According to a Sydney Morning Herald report on the situation in Bundaberg: "About 1200 properties have been inundated as the city experiences a record flood, with more expected to go under in the next few hours." Peaople are advised to make their way onto their roof, if safe. Helicopters are being employed to rescue stranded people from roofs.

Ex-cyclone Oswald continues to move south overnight Sunday

Heavy torrential rain and gusting winds are now impacting the Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, Darling Downs, The Gold Coast and Tweed Valley. Reports on Sunday morning:

  • Emergency crews attend four swift water rescues overnight.
  • Some homes in east Bundaberg are being evacuated this morning, with 150-200 houses expected to be flooded.
  • Reports of water 8m over the Awoonga Dam wall at Gladstone. Baffle Creek Water levels very high.
  • Noosa River has broken its bank, area flooding along Gympie Tce
  • Energex reported Sunday morning 30,000 without power across SEQ. By 7:48pm Sunday the number had climbed to 124,845. Shotly after midnight, monday morning it reached nearly 180,000 properties without power.
  • Highways cut due to flooding: D'Aguilar Hway cut off at Kilcoy. Bruce Hwy south of Miriam Vale, Bruce Highway at Gin Gin
  • Roads to Hervey Bay are cut in all directions. Most rds in Maryborough are flooding.
  • Police: Preliminary reports of trees & powerlines down in Toowoomba. Strong winds gusting there.
  • Forecasts of destructive wind gusts of up to 125km/h.
  • Sunshine Coast Council has opened evacuation centres at Nambour, Noosa and Caloundra.
  • The Insurance Council of Australia has now declared the storm, torrential rain and flooding a state-wide disaster for Queensland.
  • At 3.02pm Sunday there were 78,000 homes and businesses without power in Ipswich, Moreton Bay, Logan, parts of the Gold Coast and Brisbane. Energex reported at 6.08pm that this had grown to 97,495 Customers without power supply in South East Queensland.
  • Gympie: flood levels likely to go up to 21 metres, higher than the 17.5 metres from the 2011 floods. One man missing washed away, another two rescued from flood waters. The Bruce highway is cut.
  • Mary River at Gympie set to peak at 21m on Monday morning. A peak of 10m during monday, in to Tuesday for Maryborough
  • Maryborough: Businesses told to expect flood inundation. River expected to peak Midnight on Monday at 10 metres, exceeding the 2010-2011 floods.
  • North Burnett - Paradise Dam is 6.5 metres over spillway. Higher than 2011. Worst not over despite rain having stopped.
  • Burnett River was at 8.45m at midnight; Dec 2010 level was 7.92m, 1942 flood was 8.59m. Burnett River at Walla now at 22.6m; it reached 20.1m in Dec 2010. Further rise expected. At 13.20am Monday BoM says that Rapid rises and severe major flooding is being experienced in the Burnett Catchment.
  • Bunderberg. The flood levels are now predicted to exceed the 2010/2011 levels. We are seeing evacuations in Bundaberg north and I believe Bunderberg East. Gingin and (chalders) are also isolated. We expect overall 300 homes and 100 business innundated in Bundaberg.
  • Ipswich: high rainfall over the next 24 hours, and Kilcoy and Esk have been isolated.
  • Gold Coast and Lockyer Valley: can expect very strong rainfall today and very strong winds up to 130 km/hr....gearing up for potential flooding on the Nerang River and low lying areas of the Gold Coast. At 8pm Sunday BOM reporting heaviest rainfall is currently on the Gold Coast and Gold Coast hinterland.
  • NSW: Minor flood warning for Bellinger River at Thora.
  • Rough seas, storm surge, Torrential rain, the possibility of tornados, and flash flooding should be expected across all Northern Rivers Catchments as the system moves south.

Origins of Tropical Cyclone Oswald

This weather event had it's origin as Tropical Cyclone Oswald which formed in the Gulf of Carpentaria on 21st January. Winds speeds were quite low, but it brought torrential rain to Cape York before fading and being downgraded to a remnant low pressure area on January 22. As it crossed Cape York, it then combined with a monsoonal trough.

NASA's Aqua satellite on Jan 24 "captured an infrared image of a powerful band of thunderstorms over the Coral Sea. The band of thunderstorms east of Oswald's center showed some strong convection and cold cloud top temperatures as cold as -63 Fahrenheit (-52 Celsius). Those cold temperatures are indicative of high, powerful thunderstorms capable of dropping heavy rainfall." said the NASA media release.

The low pressure system with severe thunderstorms is moving south down the coast causing heavy rainfall, rough seas, and flash flooding. Here is the BOM 4 day cumulative rainfall forecast 26 to 29 January:


Rockhampton recorded its highest ever daily rainfall of 349mm to 9am on 25 January 2013. The previous record for daily rainfall at Rockhampton to 9am was 219mm on 31st January 1978. But some locations nearby even exceeded this record. Upper Dee, south of Rockhampton, received 569mm in 24 hours, Pacific Heights 556.6mm, Broadmeadows 478mm, Glenlands 459mm, Yeppoon 350.4mm, Rockley 350mm.

The Queensland State Emergency Service (SES) received more than 650 requests for assistance in the 24 hours to 5am Saturday, 26 January 2013. Of these, approximately 415 of these were in Central Queensland, including more than 130 for Rockhampton, and more than 35 jobs each for Gladstone and Yeppoon. Bundaberg SES also had more than 35 requests for assistance. Jobs were mostly for leaking roofs, fallen trees and flooding.

"When you get more than 500mm in under 48 hours in a large populated area like Rockhampton, it means danger," said Queensland Fire and Rescue Service Assistant Commissioner Ewan Cayzer.

Queensland Fire and Rescue Service (QFRS) carried out 20 swift water rescue cases across Central Queensland, mostly in Rockhampton over Thursday night and early Friday morning.

"Flash flooding can occur quickly and catch motorists and pedestrians unaware. In most cases, swift water rescues are preventable and there is absolutely no excuse for motorists who deliberately drive or walk past a road closed sign and into floodwaters." said Emergency Management Queensland (EMQ) South East Regional Director, Mike Shapland.

Mr Shapland said flash flooding was extremely dangerous and can occur within minutes of intense heavy rainfall.

About 18,000 homes and businesses across the region lost power, with Ergon Energy reported that 3,000 homes were without power in Rockhampton & 72 homes on the Capricorn Coast. They hope to restore power by today, although they are impeded by roads washed away.

Owly Images

Wide Bay Area

After hitting Rockhampton, the system moved south. On Saturday torrential rain and flash flooding started in the Wide Bay region around Bundaberg and Gladstone.

Reports of at least 8 tornados in the Bundaberg areas of Bargara, Burnett Heads and Coonar with houses and business reported damaged, telecommunications and power disrupted, and at least 17 serious injuries so far reported. Brisbane is now on alert for low lying areas to expect flooding, the worst since the Brisbane floods of 2011.

ABC reporter Shelley Lloyd said on twitter late Saturday night, "A major flood threat in C Qld with 400 homes evacuated near the mouth of the Boyne River. Mayor say a 1-in-2000-year flood. The Banana Regional Council urging people in the low-lying areas of Biloela in C Qld to evacuate to higher ground ." A Watch and Act alert has also been issued for a storm surge in conjunction with high tide in Moreton Bay at 10am Sunday morning.

The bureau of Meteorology issued a Severe weather warning at 3.21pm Saturday 26 January. Here is an excerpt:

Damaging winds, with peak gusts of around 110km/h are expected over the Wide Bay and Burnett, northern stretches of the Sunshine Coast and northern parts of the Darling Downs and Granite Belt district, particularly over higher terrain. Winds gusts in excess of 125km/h may occur and this could cause significant damage or destruction to homes and property in localised areas.

These conditions are expected to contract southwards into the Southeast Coast district and also extend west to the Great Dividing Range during Sunday, with destructive wind gusts in excess of 125 km/h possibly developing Sunday afternoon or evening.

We have received reports of a tornado occurring through Bargara (near Bundaberg) at around 1pm. Another report has been received of a second tornado near the Burnett Heads/Bargara area at 3pm.

Heavy rainfall which may lead to flash flooding is expected over the Wide Bay and Burnett district and Southeast Coast district, extending west to the Great Dividing Range. Six hour rainfall accumulations in excess of 100mm are likely. This could lead to rapid river and stream rises. 24 hour rainfall accumulations in excess of 250mm are likely.

Currently, the heaviest rain is located on radar over the southern Capricornia district and through the Wide Bay and Burnett district. Areas near Gladstone and south to Bundaberg have recorded 200 to 500mm in the 24 hours to 9am Saturday. Some areas through the southern Capricornia have now recorded close to 900mm over the past 48 hours.

Water levels on the morning high tides are likely to exceed the highest tide of the year about coastal and island locations from Burnett Heads to the New South Wales border during Sunday and Monday. The sea level is likely to rise above the normal tide and the exposed beaches will experience damaging waves and flooding of some low lying areas close to the shoreline.

A Flooding emergency alert was issued early Saturday morning for Gladstone, with the Boyne river to exceed 1 in 100 flood levels at the 8:45AM high tide this morning and evening high tide at 21:00 hours. "We have 400 homes that could have water in them according to the Q100 specifications," Cr Sellers told The Observer.

Another alert on Saturday morning from The Banana Shire Council and the State Emergency Service (SES) said that Torrential rain had caused unprecedented outflow for the Callide and Kroombit Dams which will cause flooding for properties around Goovigen.

Bureau of Meteorology forecast rainfall totals of 200mm, up to 350mm in elevated areas, for coastal areas during Saturday with the heaviest rainfall likely between Gladstone and Bundaberg.

Ian Webb from the Bureau of Meteorology explained on a Saturday afternoon press conference that more than a metre of rain had fallen in the Gladstone area.

Pippa Bradshaw is a journalist for the seven network. She reports tornados hitting Bargara, located 13 kilometres east of Bundaberg.

She reports that "Crews can't get one man out of the car. Woolworths in Bargara has collapsed. Completely destroyed. Chaos everywhere." and that the Region has been "declared a disaster. Weather worsening again." The two people have now been taken to hospital with serious injuries.

Another journalist, Melinda Howells for the ABC network, also ventured out to capture images of destruction at Bargara:

ABC Widebay took this image of a trampoline thrown up into powerlines at Bargara:

Queensland Police (@QPSmedia) are reporting a tornado at Burnett Heads, with reports of infrastructure damage. They are advising "Tornado activity can be intense, short-lived but destructive. Residents in the Burnett Heads region should remain inside." Preliminary reports from the Queensland Police say that 150 homes have been damaged.

At 5.35pm Queensland Police reporting a 3rd tornado reported - Coonar, 20kms S of Bundaberg.

Burnett Heads was hit again at 6.05pm. Two people are believed to have been injured in the 6:05pm tornado at Burnett Heads. A fifth tornado has now been confirmed in the Wide Bay area. The 5th tornado hit Burnett Heads in vicinity of Hunter St at 6:30pm. Queensland Police report 2 houses with roof damage & powerlines down.

The Bundaberg Regional Council and the State Emergency Service (SES) have issued a flood warning for Winfield (north of Bundaberg), advising that at high tide, Baffle Creek is expected to rise above the 1971 record. Properties in this area are likely to experience flooding. Residents are advised to warn their neighbours, secure their belongings and move to higher ground now.

Emergency services have issued a storm surge warning for the Moreton Bay coastal areas. The storm surge is likely to be half a metre on top of the high tide at 10am on Sunday 27 January.

Emergency Management Queensland (EMQ) Assistant Director-General Bruce Grady said EMQ had been advised by the BoM that current radar imagery suggests the strong possibility of tornado-like activity continuing to affect areas across the Wide Bay and Burnett District. "Authorities have received multiple reports of tornado-like activity occurring across the northern Wide Bay area this afternoon and evening which has resulted in significant structural damage and injury. I urge residents to remain vigilant, prepare themselves and heed the warnings from authorities." he said.

Queensland police have advised that non-essential travel on the Sunshine Coast Sunday morning should be cancelled due to the extreme weather.

Both the Queensland government and Federal Government have announced financial assistance under natural disaster relief and recovery arrangements.

The low trough is slowly moving south bringing torrential rain to populated south east corner of Queensland containing Brisbane and the Gold Coast and then the northern rivers region of New South Wales.

Flood Warning for Burnett River 9.16am Sunday 27 January

  • Burnett River to Gayndah: Extreme river rises have been recorded in the upper Burnett River. River levels at Eidsvold have exceeded the Decemeber 2010 flood level and are continuing to rise. Major flooding is developing at Gayndah and Mundubbera, with river levels expected to exceed the December 2010 levels during Sunday.
  • Burnett River Gayndah to Walla: The Burnett River at Walla is approaching 21 metres, which is above the December 2010 flood (20.10 metres) and is likely to reach 22 metres during Sunday.
  • Burnett River at Bundaberg: The Burnett River will exceed 8 metres (the December 2010 flood level 7.92 metres) during Sunday, and reach 8.5 metres during Sunday night or early Monday morning. The 1942 flood reached 8.59 metres at Bundaberg. Further rises are likely during Monday and Tuesday.
  • Major flooding will also occur in the Boyne and Auburn Rivers and Barambah and Barkers Creek.

Tornado and destructive winds warning issued 10am Sunday by Higgins Storm Chasing

Update Sunday 10.30am: An urgent alert has been issued by Higgins Storm Chasing Sunday 10am for destructive winds in excess of 125km/hr likely, tornados likely, between Bundaberg and Tweed heads west to the Darling Downs and Granite Belt effective now for 12 hours. The Insurance Council of Australia has now declared the storm, tornados, torrential rain and flooding a state-wide disaster for Queensland.

    • Image on Left displays Destructive Winds @ 3000 feet 10AM, these are dragged down to surface in Storm and Rain cells.
    • Image on right displays Helicity values 10AM Supportive of Tornado development.
    • SEVERE storm cells will be very fast moving from the ocean towards land.
    • They are likely to form ANYWHERE, ANYTIME in the above mentioned areas over the next 12 hrs.
    • These SEVERE CELLS will be warned by BOM as SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNINGS, they will be issued quickly once SEVERE cells offshore are moving towards land as they hold the greatest threat of Destructive Winds and Tornadoes.
    • Please keep a very close eye on BOM Warnings and QLDALERT, HSC will attempt to pass on every STW warning as they are issued.

Video of a 17 month old toddler being winched to safety in an equipment bag. The toddler was too small to use a harness. Two women and the child were trapped by flood waters rapidly rising around their Ute. They resorted to waiting for help and helicopter rescue from the tray at the back of the vehicle. Rescue personnel filmed the rescue undertaken in severe rain and wind gusts.

Brisbane on alert for Flash flooding

Residents of Brisbane are on alert for low level flooding, likely to be the worst since the Brisbane floods of 2011 according to this report in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Brisbane is built on a flood plain and low lying areas are at risk from flooding due to the extremely heavy rainfall, storm tides and Wivanhoe Dam releases ordered by Premier Campbell Newman. Temporary sandbag depots at Sandgate and Lota were announced by Lord Mayor Graham Quirk Saturday morning.

Campbell Newman, Premier of Queensland, said flood levels for Brisbane would be 2m less than 2011 at Brisbane city, but 3,600 properties are still likely to be impacted by flooding in Brisbane. Peak will come Monday evening and Tuesday morning. The Premier appealed for calm in Brisbane and urging people to study flood projection maps when they're released shortly on council websites. Brisbane City Council flood maps.

Bremer River in Ipswich is expected to peak 5m less than in 2011.

Waters in low lying Brisbane suburbs are rising.

Torrential Rain, Tornado risk, Flooding: ex-cyclone Oswald moves into NSW

After causing major flooding and damage from severe winds and Tornados down the Queensland coast, Ex-cyclone Oswald is moving into the northern rivers region of New South Wales.

Climate change now affects all weather events

Torrential rain causes flash flooding. Extreme weather is increasing as we are warming up the hydrological cycle - the water cycle.

Warmer atmospheric temperatures mean the atmosphere can carry more moisture for heavier rainfall and precipitation events like we have seen in Queensland. Elevated sea surface temperatures provides more energy for storm systems to form.

Climate change is an underlying component that acts to boost the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. Extreme has become the new normal.

Dr. Kevin Trenberth explained in a 2012 paper "Framing the way to relate climate extremes to climate change":

Scientists are frequently asked about an event "Is it caused by climate change?" The answer is that no events are "caused by climate change" or global warming, but all events have a contribution. Moreover, a small shift in the mean can still lead to very large percentage changes in extremes. In reality the wrong question is being asked: the question is poorly posed and has no satisfactory answer. The answer is that all weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be.

So we shouldn't be surprised when temperature records tumble in extreme heatwaves. Or when rainfall records fall, like they did in Rockhampton, Gladstone or Bundaberg in Queensland. This is a consequence of increasing greenhouse emissions to the atmosphere.

Most of those greenhouse emissions have there origin in fossil fuels: oil, coal and natural gas. And Queensland is addicted to coal mining, rapidly expanding coal mining and export to increase those atmospheric greenhouse emissions, which will increase temperatures and further increase the power of extreme weather events. Development is occurring placing the World heritage Status of the Great Barrier Reef in danger. But still the mining continues under ex Premier Anna Bligh or current Liberal National Party Premier Campbell Newman.

Get used to it. The coal being dug up today is the fuel for tomorrow's extreme weather disasters. And until we challenge the supremacy of coal, the world is going to get a lot warmer and more dangerous, for all of us.

See Article: Queensland 2013 bigwet floods, tornados and climate change


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