PHOTO: Drone footage of damage at Collaroy beach. (Supplied: UNSW WRL)
East coast storm mapped: What happened where
From Central Queensland to Sydney’s northern beaches and Launceston, the country’s eastern fringe has been hit by heavy rain and flash flooding, with three lives lost and hundreds forced from their homes.
Deluge begins in Central Queensland
The weather bureau said Queensland’s central and southern interior — including the towns of Emerald and Clermont — were the first areas to be affected by extreme weather that tracked down the east coast of Australia over the weekend.
On Friday night, just before 10:00pm, a 21-year-old woman driving a utility on the Capricorn Highway got caught in floodwaters near Pine Hill Creek at Alpha, in Queensland’s central west.
An hour passed before she was plucked from the roof of her vehicle by truck drivers and local farmers. She was later treated for shock and exposure.
The low pressure system dumped more heavy falls as it tracked south, hitting Hervey Bay and then the Sunshine Coast on Saturday morning, when up to 170 millimetres fell in the hinterland.
Brisbane submerged, an iconic tree lost
In Brisbane, heavy rain saw dozens of roads inundated, including in West End, Woolloongabba and Toombul.
By Saturday afternoon, the State Emergency Service had received more than 1,000 calls for help from across the south east, mostly in relation to minor flood damage or leaking roofs, and about half in the state’s capital.
The wild weather also forced the cancellation of scores of events, including the official reopening of the Eagle Farm Racecourse.
The Normanby Hotel, in central Brisbane, saw its renowned fig tree uprooted. Many patrons later expressed sadness at its loss, saying it was the site of numerous first kisses and marriage proposals.
The Gold Coast goes under
The weather cleared the Gold Coast by late Saturday afternoon, though that evening’s high tide brought more bad news.
At Burleigh Heads, swells of up to four metressmashed through windows at the beachfront Burleigh swimming pool and Rick Shores restaurant.
Pool manager Jay Clarke said the clean-up could take a couple of weeks.
“It’s a foot deep of rubble, glass busted in from the front end of the building and I’m sure there’s some fish in there as well,” he said.
Northern New South Wales swamped
Across the border in Lismore, more than 500 people were evacuated, and the Richmond River High School was flooded, as waters rose to an eventual Sunday afternoon peak of 9.1 metres.
Lavenders Bridge at Bellingen, on the north coast, went under when the Bellingen River rose, cutting off half of the town.
A boardwalk was damaged at Coffs Harbour, where rapidly rising flood waters forced about 60 people to leave their homes on Saturday night.
Residents were also forced to leave at Billinudgel, Ocean Shores and parts of Murwillumbah, though they have since returned.
On Sydney’s northern beaches, people were evacuated from about seven houses and a unit block in Collaroy, as large waves up to eight metres high eroded the coast, crossing 50 metres over the coastal road, police said.
A number of properties had their backyards washed away.
“One of the properties along that strip actually lost an entire in-ground pool, which had moved above five metres out to sea,” Inspector Jason Reimer said.
One local resident, David, said the erosion was immense.
“There is no beach at Collaroy,” he said.
“I wouldn’t be calling it Collaroy Beach anymore, I’d be calling it Collaroy Point.”
A man dies as the Harbour City is lashed
In Leppington, in south-western Sydney, the wild weather claimed its first known victim, when a utility was washed into floodwaters after entering a causeway about 5:00pm on Saturday.
The man’s body was found on Anthony Road about 11:30am on Monday.
Across the country’s most populous city, fallen trees damaged homes and cars, and residents were evacuated from low-lying areas near the Georges River, Chipping Norton, and Milperra.
Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs were also badly hit, with Coogee’s historic surf club suffering extensive damage.
The club, which has stood since 1907, is now at risk of collapse.
In Picton, about 30 businesses were flooded after two metres of water swept through the town on Sunday night, coating properties in mud. A local cemetery was left strewn with rubbish.
“I think within two hours it was flooded well and truly and I don’t think people were expecting it to come up so fast,” The Picton Valley Motel owner Matt Regan said of the town’s main street.
Man killed in Bowral
In Bowral, about halfway on the road between Sydney and Canberra, emergency services were called to Mittagong Creek about 5:30pm on Sunday following reports a car was seen in floodwaters with its hazard lights flashing.
Hume Police and the SES conducted a search but could not find the car.
About 8:30am on Monday it was recovered in Mittagong Creek. Inside they found the body of a 65-year-old man, who has yet to be formally identified.
River claims life in Canberra
In the nation’s capital, the body of a man was recovered from a swollen river after he was trapped in his car on Sunday night and swept away by raging floodwaters.
Rescue teams were at the scene planning how to get to the 37-year-old man when his vehicle was taken away by the torrent about 4:30pm.
The Kambah man’s body was found a short time later on an island in the middle of the Cotter River near Murray’s Corner.
Police and emergency services retrieved the body on Monday morning.
‘Unprecedented’ flooding for Tasmania
To have major flood warnings in place for five of Tasmania’s rivers is unprecedented, according to Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Simon McCulloch.
“I have been around for the best part of 30 years, and we’ve had some major flooding on occasion, but generally only in one or two rivers at a time,” he said on Monday.
There are grave fears held for two elderly people missing due to the flooding, which saw rivers in Launceston and Burnie break their banks.
Residents in parts of the St Leonards area of Launceston, which borders the North Esk, were evacuated, and it is likely more people will be forced to leave later on Monday.
In Hart Street, Newstead, most residents were forced to evacuate, among them Jan Kidd, who said she had lived in her house for 34 years and never seen anything like the flood waters.
“I’ve been on and on to the council over the years and they just laugh at you, they seem to think nothing needs to be done,” she said.
“When you get to this stage of your life and you feel like you’re losing everything, it’s not funny.”