Another metre of rain could fall in parts of Queensland in coming days, with flood evacuees in sodden Townsville nervously waiting to see just how far the water will rise.
The monsoon trough that’s been dumping vast amounts of rain on the state’s north for a week has rewritten Townsville’s record books.
In just seven days, the city copped a staggering 1012mm, eclipsing the previous record of 886mm set on the city’s so-called Night of Noah when vast swathes of the city went under back in 1998.
With up to 500 homes already under water in Townsville, forecasters have warned any real reprieve is days away.
In the space of a few short hours on Sunday, another intense downpour pushed up water levels in the city’s swollen Ross River Dam up by almost 10 per cent, to 237 per cent of capacity.
Locals have been warned the dam’s floodgates are expected to be completely opened between 8.30pm on Sunday and 6.30am on Monday.
That would let up to 2000 cubic metres of water out of the dam per second, double what was being released earlier on Sunday.
The increased release could flood more low-lying homes along the river, but might be needed for the greater good.
Parts of north and central Queensland could get another half a metre to a metre of rain over the next few days.
Authorities have pleaded with Townsville residents who are still in their homes to get ready.
“We don’t know when this event will end,” Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill said.
“We cannot give you any certainty about what we are going to need to do into the future.”
Townsville Airport announced it had cancelled all flights in and out of the facility just after 6pm due to safety concerns.
With water levels at waist and chest height in some suburban streets, local police chief and District Disaster Coordinator Steve Munro said the crisis was only half over.
If things go the city’s way, the flood might not affect any or many more than the 400 to 500 properties already inundated.
But he warned: “It could move up to the 10,000, 20,000 (mark). That’s the worst case scenario we’re looking at if things keep going pear-shaped. We don’t want to get to that stage.”
The monsoon trough has brought driving rain to other parts of the state too, including drought-hit communities out west.
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At Hughenden, properties are facing inundation and the forecast is for more major falls out there, as far as Mount Isa near the Northern Territory border.
Back on the east coast, communities from Ingham to Mackay, 500km away, are at risk of flash flooding and damaging winds, including the possibility of tornadoes.
In Townsville, people are sharing dramatic stories of what they had to do to escape fast-rising flood waters.
Hermit Park resident Randall Parker used a blow-up air bed to float his family to safety after water rapidly swallowed his unit.
“It is just unbelievable … It just keeps bucketing down,” he told TheSunday Mail.
“I just had to get the family out including a newborn baby as quick as possible.”