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Early winter blast, record rain hit much of the eastern seaboard of Australia, severe weather to continue into weekend


Much of the eastern seaboard of Australia was hit by wet weather overnight into May 20, 2020, as a cold front generated rains across Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland. The severe weather conditions are forecast to last until the weekend as the country experiences an early winter blast. Queensland, in particular, recorded 450 mm (1.5 feet) of rain in a 48-hour period to May 22– its highest two-day rainfall total in 29 years.

In Queensland, heavy rainfall lashed parts of the northern region, prompting flood warnings in some areas. Flooding was reported in parts of the North Tropical Coast. 

The intense downpours were due to a deep layer of moisture-laden air over the north, interacting with a low trough near the North Tropical Coast.

Some areas received more than 500 mm (1.6 feet) of rain in a 48 hour period to Thursday morning, May 21. Around 520 m (1.7 feet) of rain was registered at Bulgan Creek near Tully.

Around 450 m (1.5 feet) of rain was recorded at Bingil Bay, making it the highest two-day total in 29 years and its highest during the month of May since record-keeping began in 1926.

The two-day downpour included 300 mm (1 foot) in a 24 hour period, which is also a new record for May.

As of 00:00 UTC (10:00 LT), flood warnings had been in place for the Mulgrave, Russell, and Tully Rivers. Rains are expected over the region into Sunday, May 24, but falls will not be as heavy as the previous ones.

In New South Wales, heavy rain is forecast to settle in on Friday, May 22, with the Harbour City likely to see up to 60 mm (2.4 inches) of rain. Hazardous conditions are expected for coastal activities, including rock fishing, surfing, and swimming.

Wind warnings are in force along the Sydney and Illawarra coasts, while a gale warning is in effect for the coasts of Macquarie, Hunter, Batemans, and Eden.

There will be a slight chance of showers by Saturday, May 23, but heavy rainfall is likely to come back on Sunday, May 24, with winds forecast to intensify across much of the region.

In Victoria, up to 60 homes were severely damaged as storms hit the western portion overnight into May 20. Four of the houses were deemed uninhabitable, prompting relocation for the affected residents.

The worst-affected areas were Waurn Ponds and Mount Duneed, with the State Emergency Service (SES) accommodating 115 calls for help. 

Conditions across the state have eased as of May 21, but showers are likely to return on Friday afternoon. Rains will also make a comeback on the weekend, with showers expected for much of Saturday.

Featured image credit: Chris Bolton


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