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Major rain event gets under way in eastern Australia
Heavy rain kicked off late yesterday in eastern QLD, and will progressively move south over the next two days reaching northern parts of TAS on Saturday. Parts of Queensland's North and Central Coasts had received more than their average May rainfall by 09.00 this morning, and the same should apply by the end of this event to many places in northern, central and western QLD and western NSW, which are normally fairly dry in May.
A large area of moisture is being drawn south from the Coral Sea, driven by a deep surface trough lying north/south through western QLD, NSW and VIC. Such a large system is unusual for May, but has been set up by an unseasonal energy burst from tropical waters in the Indian Ocean which is strengthening the upper trough lying above the surface north/south trough. The combination of moisture infeed and strong instability around the trough will produce widespread rain as well as thunderstorms. This BoM interview with Scott Williams*, Senior Forecaster on the Extreme Weather Desk, gives an overview of expected events and their causes.
The heaviest rain of 100 to 200mm and possibly as high as 400mm is falling today and tomorrow in tropical QLD. To 09.00 today, the highest falls were between Mackay and Townsville with Preston flood alert gauge near Proserpine the highest on 114mm. Between 09.00 and 22.00 today, rain intensified with many locations reporting more than 100mm, especially around the mountains south of Townsville where Major Creek flood alert gauge had picked up 146mm. The Pump Station gauge at Bowen recorded 133mm in the 13 hours, which added to rain received up to 09.00 gave 220mm for the city since the rain began. There's a minor flood warning in place for the Don River inland from Bowen. Rain around the coast and nearby inland is expected to ease after tomorrow morning.
Thunderstorms stretching WNW from Townsville towards the Gulf gave some places between 50 and 100mm today. The BoM expects storms and rain areas will extend south into SW QLD and western NSW overnight before spreading across much of inland, central and southern NSW on Friday. Things will move a little faster in VIC which is close to a low developing in the trough. Heavy falls are expected to develop this evening in the northwest, gradually covering VIC during Friday and moving into TAS by Saturday.
In NSW, heavy falls are likely in western, southwestern and central areas. Falls of 30 to 50mm are expected across northern and western VIC with higher falls to 75mm in thunderstorms. In TAS, the heaviest rain will be in the north of the state with 20 to 40mm, but 40 to 80mm in the northwest, between Smithton and Devonport. Rain will gradually clear from the north and west as the trough and low move slowly east over the next few days.