NEWS

Rockhampton Residents Brace For Thursday Flood Peak

Residents will still be getting around in tinnies for a few days yet.

06/04/2017 8:03 AM AEST | Updated 07/04/2017 8:27 AM AEST

The residents of Rockhampton are used to floods, but even they concede that this is a "big one".

As the rest of Queensland and northern New South Wales cleaned up in the wake of Cyclone Debbie and the ensuing floods, the Queensland city watched and waited as the Fitzroy River carved its slow, ominous path into town.

But locals weren't too worried. Even younger residents have seen major floods before, with the 2011 flood peaking at 9.2 metres.

Anything over 8.5 metres is considered a major flood by the Bureau of Meteorology.

"It's come to that time of year when we've got to use the boats again," one resident told ABC News matter-of-factly as he steered his tinny down a suburban street.

The flood level finally peaked in Rockhampton on Thursday at a lower-than-anticipated 8.75 metres. Nevertheless, around 375 homes were without power on Thursday afternoon and 217 homes had water over their floorboards, an SES spokesperson has confirmed.

With major flood warnings issued as far back as Saturday, the flood peak has been a long time coming for residents -- and the wait isn't over yet. The river is expected to remain at major flood levels for at least 48 hours, with flooding set to continue into the weekend.

So why has it taken so long for Rockhampton to flood?

Clear skies and sunny weather make for an incongruous backdrop to the inundation -- the regional city hasn't had a drop of rain since last Friday.

The water is coming from much further afield than that. It stems from the Fitzroy Basin Catchment -- an area roughly twice the size of Tasmania.

Cyclone Debbie brought huge swaths of water to the Basin, and that water has now trickled into the swelling Fitzroy River, and is now heading downstream towards Rockhampton. The river is much deeper at other points upstream -- it's 22.8 metres deep at Riverslea -- but those areas don't have low-lying towns on the riverbank.

Over 2,000 homes and 1,000 businesses are expected to be affected by the floodwaters in Rockhampton, and thousands of people have had to halt work as they wait for the waters to recede.

Two men aged in their seventies have been airlifted out of the area on Wednesday, suffering from heart conditions, according to the Brisbane Times. But most residents are staying put, despite the inundation.

An evacuation centre has opened at the Robert Schwarten Pavilion in Rockhampton. The Pavilion can house up to 250 people, but currently only a few people have made use of it.

Authorities have closed many of the roads due to flood risk, and are fining drivers who venture too close to floodwaters up to $731.

The Yeppen traffic management plan has also been enacted, where traffic is funneled off a part of the Bruce Highway which floods and redirected through the city via an overpass which does not flood.

The floods have also taken their toll on local wildlife, as animals head into town in search of dry ground.

This platypus appears to have been washed away from its territory, its burrow inundated by floods, but Wildlife Rockhampton reassured residents that it would be ok:


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