Dams filling, roads being cleared as town evacuates from floodwaters

Residents in the northern NSW town of Murwillumbah are being evacuated as the rain starts to ease in southeast Queensland.

Dec 15, 2020, updated Dec 15, 2020

Wet weather has wreaked havoc along the coast, where higher than normal tides still have waterfront communities on alert today. Beaches have been eroded – waves are carving a channel through northern Bribie Island – with rough surf and foam replacing sand in some areas.

While the rain is easing in southeast Queensland, and the flooded Logan River is going down, the Bureau of Meteorology re-issued a hazardous surf warning for parts of the state south of the Fraser Coast. Conditions are expected to ease this afternoon.

Acting Queensland Premier Steven Miles said emergency services crews and volunteers were responding to reports of flooding today and he encouraged people to pay attention to forecasts and alerts.

“Obviously, we’ve been monitoring the weather event very closely,” Miles said.

“The tidal surges appear to be having the greatest impact.”

Parts of the Gold Coast hinterland received almost one metre of rain in a week, with the Hinze Dam rising from 85 per cent of capacity to nearly 95 per cent in 10 days, and three other dams in the southeast currently spilling. The regional water grid has made valuable gains, now running at 57 per cent capacity, with a decision on whether to recommission recycled water assets deferred until after summer.

Across the border, 1000 properties are at risk after the Tweed River burst its banks, with the Bureau of Meteorology not ruling out record-breaking rainfall in some areas as the weather system heads further south.

One of the heaviest falls was recorded at Bellingen on the mid-north coast of NSW, where 251mm fell in the 24-hours to 9am on Tuesday.

The bleak week comes after Queensland lifted border restrictions to travellers from Victoria and greater Sydney, which accommodation and tourism companies hoped would be a boost for the coastal strip. Instead, travellers have been forced inside, with beaches closed and a Byron Bay strip washed away altogether.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian today said the La Nina system would have an ongoing impact on Australia “so we need to expect the unexpected”.

“I’m hoping what we’ve seen in the last few days won’t be repeated frequently over summer, but it could,” Berejiklian told ABC TV.

“Our weather experts tell us we’re expecting conditions worse than what we’ve seen in quite a number of years.”

The wild weather in Queensland had left thousands without power, and insurance assessors facing hundreds of claims. On Tamborine Mountain Road, in the Gold Coast hinterland, a landslide led to 3m rocks blocking local traffic.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services deputy commissioner Mark Roche said his crews had received about 1400 requests for help, mainly for leaking roofs and tarping and downed trees.

The wind and heavy rain was expected to ease, but he urged people to remain vigilant, stay out of floodwaters, drive with caution and turn back if they see a road or a bridge under water.

-With AAP, ABC

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