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Monday 28 February 2000

Today's weather extremes

TC Steve makes a mess of Far North Qld
Flooding at Esperence WA
Floods create problems across the nation

Highest rainfall, 24 hours to 9am

291.0 Hilltop Kuranda Qld
269.0 Mt Sophia Gordonvale Qld
217.8 Mareeba AP Qld
215.0 Topaz Malanda Qld

Other heavy north Qld falls:
209.4 Wrotham Park
202.0 Herberton
201.0 Tinaroo Falls Dam
179.0 Tully
152.6 Cairns City

Some heavy 3-day falls in Qld to 9am
511.0 Hilltop Kuranda
453.0 Topaz Malanda
420.0 Mt Sophia Gordonvale
403.2 Cairns City
350.0 Gordonvale PO

Daybreak today revealed the damage caused when tropical cyclone Steve swept through Cairns last night. Trees and powerlines are down, with around 40,000 homes without power in the city and many roads blocked. Damage to houses and businesses was extensive but generally not major, though several buildings were unroofed and city streets littered with debris. Schools were closed for the day, and the airport and port of Cairns closed until the afternoon. Local flooding also caused problems, though rainfall around Cairns was not as great as expected.

More serious problems were caused by Steve as it crossed the Atherton Tablelands to the west of Cairns. Between 200 and 300mm fell in the area late yesterday and overnight in an area that had already received 200 to 300mm in the previous 2 days, causing the Barron River at Mareeba, the Tablelands main town, to peak at a record 12.4m this morning. The town was isolated for most of the day, and without water until late afternoon when the town's water supply pumps failed. A caravan park and 14 houses were evacuated in the town. Roads leading to the Atherton Tablelands were impassable all day, with the main Gillies Highway, which connects the Tablelands with the coast, expected to be closed for a week due to extensive washaways. South of Cairns, the main Bruce Highway was closed at Gordonvale by the Mulgrave River, while a youth was drowned in a flooded creek near Tully.

Moist northerly air converging into a slow-moving troughline appears to have been responsible for unusually heavy rain in Esperance WA this morning. 70mm fell in the town between midnight and 9am, flooding low-lying areas and up to a dozen houses. An area of The Esplanade had to be closed when drainage failed to cope with the downpour. Widespread blackouts resulted from a high voltage powerline fault. No thunder was reported by the Esperance observer.

Flooding continues to cause problems in other parts of WA, Qld, NSW, SA and NT. In WA's Pilbara, a group of 26 tourists and police had to be airlifted to safety after heavy rain turned creeks south of Karratha into raging torrents over the weekend. In the Qld/NT border country, the Georgina River is still causing traffic disabilities, with people stranded at Avon Downs by metre-deep water over the bridge. In the Territory, the Tanami, Docker River and Sandover Highways are still impassable, but are expected to be opened tomorrow. The repair bill for NT highways has been put at $4m. In far north SA, the Stuart Highway was reopened today, but most other roads remain impassable, and are likely to remain so for another week or more. Airdrops of food and supplies continue, with Uluru (Ayers Rock) still isolated and linked to the outside world only by helicopter. In NW NSW, about 30 properties are receiving food drops, and are likely to be isolated for another 6 to 8 weeks. However, water is expected to cover large areas for up to 6 months, promoting fears of fly-strike among bogged sheep. An estimated 12,000 sheep have been drowned in the NSW floods.

Highest & Lowest Temps

Maximum Minimum
40.0 Ceduna AP SA
40.0 Nullarbor Roadhouse SA
29.8 Mardie WA
12.6 Mt Wellington Tas 2.0 Lake St Clair Tas

Greatest variations from normal

Maximum Minimum
38.0 Eucla AP WA

+12.0 Ceduna AP SA
26.0 Port Pirie BHAS Site SA
30.1 Wittenoom WA
18.0 Milingimbi NT
Other extreme readings
Meekatharra AP WA: 51mm in 9h to 9am
Mt Walton (100km NE of Southern Cross) WA: 30mm in 1h to 6pm
Darwin AP NT: 76mm in 9h to 9am
Channel Point NT: 84mm in 6h to 9am
Cooktown Qld: 76mm in 6h to 6pm
Low Isles Qld: 14.2mm in 10m to 5am
Mareeba Qld: 198mm in 9h to 6am
Cairns AP Qld: 74mm in 6h to 3am
Ingham Qld: 63mm in 6h to 9pm
Cardwell Qld: 62mm in 6h to 3pm
Coolangatta AP Qld: 54.2mm in 3h30m to 10pm

Flood peak:
Barron River at Mareeba Qld: 12.4m this morning.

Records set this day

  • Times stated are the clock time in force in the relevant state or territory

  • Stories, including those in the archives, are as new and corrected information becomes available, with updates underlined

  • Australian Weather News gratefully acknowledges the Bureau of Meteorology as the collector and main source of meteorological data in Australia, along with the thousands of observers who record the weather and rainfall daily. I also thank Don White and the many contributors to the Aussie Weather mailing list who routinely provide much appreciated information.