Seven major rivers in New South Wales alone are set to flood over the coming days as torrential rain batters Australia’s east coast – with Sydney forecast to cop a month’s worth of rain in the next 24 hours.
Severe warnings are in place for large parts of New South Wales and Queensland as a huge front passes over the regions, with a woman dead and 10 already missing as a result of rising floodwaters.
Sydney is expected to see rain and thunderstorms for the next seven days, with downpours of up to 150mm predicted by experts.
Brisbane is expected to cop up to 100mm of Wednesday and another 120mm on Thursday, with thunderstorms lasting through the weekend until Monday.
Wednesday’s deluge caused flash flooding in parts of Sydney. State Emergency Services Minister Steph Cooke said on Wednesday that the SES received 1323 calls in 24 hours with 40 children being evacuated from a childcare centre in Marrickville, in Sydney’s inner west.
‘Looking into the future we know that New South Wales and Australia will continue to face significant events like those we have been experiencing these past three years,’ Ms Cooke said.
Parts of the state’s northeast may receive 100mm of rain over the next four days, the Bureau of Meteorology said.
More torrential rains are expected across the northeast of the state and southeast Queensland.
Flood warnings have been issued for Tweed, Brunswick, Wilsons, Richmond, Orara, Bellinger and Nambucca Rivers.
The body of a woman, 63, was found in a submerged car in southeast Queensland on Wednesday morning after 408mm of rain fell across the state’s south east.
Her car was washed away in floodwaters at Belli Park in the Sunshine Coast hinterland as police confirmed at least 10 other people were unaccounted for across the region.
They include a 54-year-old man whose motorcycle was found at Cedar Pocket near Gympie on Wednesday morning.
The BOM’s radar showed heavy falls with thunderstorms leaving many Sydney suburbs recording more than 100mm of rain on Tuesday.
Many roads are flooded and ferry services have been cancelled between Parramatta and Sydney Olympic Park on Wednesday due to flooding and debris on the swollen Parramatta River.
Weatherzone said ‘wet and stormy weather will persist into Thursday, Friday and possibly Saturday’ across northeast NSW and southeast QLD, due to an upper-level trough passing over the region.
It forecast between 200 to 500mm in total in the coming days in some areas.
From Wednesday through the weekend – and likely the start of the next week – the entire east coast and as far inland as the South Australian border is set to be drenched with rain, with hail and lightning also likely.
Accumulated multi-day rainfall totals of 200-500mm are likely from this event, with localised falls of around one metre a risk in some areas.
Emergency services received a report of the Belli Creek woman’s vehicle submerged in floodwaters at Skyring Creek Road just before 5am.
Emergency services were initially unable to access the vehicle due to fast-rising floodwaters but eventually located and accessed the submerged Honda CRV three hours later.
‘We’ve not only had to rescue people from vehicles, we’ve unfortunately seen the death of at least one lady overnight,’ Superintendent Craig Hawkins told reporters.
‘It’s terrible not only for her family and friends but also difficult for emergency services when we are pushing this message continuously not to drive into flood waters.’
‘That’s where we start seeing people put themselves in risky situations and where we see loss of life.’
‘We are searching for some people at the moment, particularly again around that Belli Park area.’
‘We’re hopeful that it’ll be a good outcome, but certainly we are searching for some people that are outstanding.’
Queensland Fire and Emergency Service conducted a dozen water rescues for residents trapped in floodwaters and the SES was inundated with more than 60 calls for help.
Queenslanders stranded in floodwaters included three at a caravan park where a vehicle and caravan were swept away.
The worst of the wild weather is yet to come with more heavy rain expected to drench the region in the next 24 hours.
A severe thunderstorm warning was issued for heavy rainfall was issued for the Taroom, Miles and Tara regions on Wednesday afternoon
‘Persistent thunderstorm activity is developing and likely to produce heavy rainfall which may lead to flash flooding’ the Bureau of Meteorology tweeted.
A severe weather warning was also issued for parts of Wide Bay, Darling Downs and Granite Belt with heavy to intense rainfall set to redevelop in south-east Queensland.
The intensified rainfall forecast and continue into Thursday in areas between Double Island Point, Toowoomba and the Main Range National Park.
‘As the ground is already saturated in some of these areas, floodwater may rise quickly and conditions may become life-threatening,’ Queensland Fire and Emergency Services said.
The woman’s death in Belli Park sparked a desperate plea from Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk for everyone to take care on the roads.
‘This is indeed a tragedy. Please, I can’t stress this enough, don’t take any risks,’ she told parliament on Wednesday.
‘This has the potential to be a significant rainfall event for south-east Queensland. In southeast Queensland, some areas will also see a month’s worth of rain.’
Crews remain at the scene where a freight train derailed south of Gympie about 3am on Wednesday due to the heavy rain. The driver suffered only minor injuries.
‘We understand it’s okay, however we’re waiting for some of the floodwaters to drop before we can do some more operational stuff,’ Queensland Fire and Emergency Services State Coordinator James Haig told 4BC radio.
‘We’re not going to put people in harm’s way whilst floodwaters are potentially threatening them.
‘At this stage, I have no report of any casualties from that.’
Buses replaced trains between Caboolture and Gympie North with commuters urged to allow an extra 90 minutes of travel time.
Another 350mm of rain in just six hours is on the way for eastern Australia as two cyclones threaten to make landfall.
The Bureau of Meteorology issued a flooding alert for Gympie in southeast Queensland, which received more than 300mm of rainfall between 9pm on Tuesday and 3am on Wednesday.
Mount Wolvi, 25km to the east of Gympie, copped 408mm of rain in those six hours.
A 419mm soaking at nearby Beenham Valley Road was more than twice its monthly average and its heaviest daily dump of rain in 30 years.
Footage from Nambour, 68km south of Gympie, showed metre-high floodwaters outside the town’s popular plaza.
A moderate flood warning has been issued for the Mary River after up to 300 mm fell over eastern parts of the catchment.
The heaviest rainfall is occurring on the Sunshine Coast but is expected to spread further south later on Wednesday.
Intense rainfall is forecast for Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Toowoomba and the Sunshine Coast on Wednesday morning, with six-hour rainfall totals of up to 250mm to 350mm possible in those areas.
A strong wind warning is in place for Fraser Island Coast, Sunshine Coast, Moreton Bay and Gold Coast.
Weatherzone also forecast two tropical cyclones could start forming off far north Queensland and northern Western Australia by Sunday evening.
The forecaster said it was too early to know ‘exactly where, when and how’ the cyclones will develop, but its forecasting models agreed the offshore areas provided the ideal environment for two developing low-pressure systems.