Tuesday 13 MAY 2003

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2003

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Floods, traffic chaos as flooding rain begins on NSW Central and Illawarra Coasts


Above: Sydney radar images at hourly intervals from 8pm EST Monday (10.00 UTC 12/05/03) to midnight EST this evening (14.00 UTC 13/05/03). The images from 8am to noon, when the heaviest rain was falling, are paused for longer. BoM
Upper air diagram (below) for Sydney Airport showing the temperature and dew point traces for 6am and 3pm, and wind at 3pm. BoM
Sydney Rainfall 24 hours to 9am
Sydney (above) and Central and Illawarra Coast (below) rainfall for the 24 hours to 9am. BoM

Rain with several hours of torrential downpours ushered in five days of rain with flooding and serious traffic dislocation to parts of Sydney, Wollongong and the Gosford area today. A weak trough lying close to the coast brought deep, saturated northeasterlies off the Tasman onto the hills and ridges of the Sydney Basin. With rough terrain providing added uplift to an only modestly unstable atmosphere, some heavy falls resulted, especially on the windward slopes to the north and south of the city and near the Illawarra Escarpment. Similar conditions continued through until Friday as a shallow Low developed off the SE QLD coast and moved slowly down the NSW coast (see reports on subsequent days).

The animated radar image at right shows how a conveyor belt of rain 50 to 80km wide and moving in from the northeast developed in the Sydney area before midnight and continued for most of today.

The upper air diagram below the radar shows the temperature and humidity measured by radiosonde balloons released at Sydney Airport around 6am (blue) and 3pm (red). The righthand trace in each case is the temperature and the lefthand trace the dew point; the smaller the gap between the two the moister it is. The temperature scale is along the bottom of the chart and the brown temperature lines slope upwards and to the right. The air is virtually saturated to around 400hPa or about 8km. The temperature traces are nearly parallel to the grey line, indicating nearly neutral buoyancy, although there is some instability betwen 900 and 800hPa, or around 1 to 2km up. The 3pm wind arrows down the righthand side of the chart are steadfastly northeast at around 20 knots all the way up to 400hPa.

Heavy rain began falling in the Gosford/Wyong area soon after midnight and became torrential around dawn. Narara just north of Gosford recorded 42.2mm between 6 and 7am and a total of 82mm in the 3 hours to 9am.

Light to moderate rain fell across much of Sydney through the night, saturating the ground, washing debris from dry roads into drains and producing good flows in most streams. An area of very heavy rain then gave 30 to 60mm to Sydney's northern and western suburbs between around 6 and 10am before intensifying and moving across Sydney's southern suburbs between about 7.30am and midday. It continued moving down the coast to give Wollongong the same treatment between about 11am and 3pm. With around 8km of cloud above the rain it was an extraordinarily dark morning, illuminated by sporadic lightning.

Some of the more significant 3-hourly rain totals were:

  6am to 9am 9am to noon noon to 3pm 9 hour total
Turramurra 38 28 4 62
Homebush 28 23 4 55
Strathfield 24 22 8 54
Peakhurst 13 52 14 79
Marrickville 10 37 15 62
Potts Hill 26 22 7 55
Sydney Observatory Hill 18 15 10 43
Holsworthy 11 21 18 50
Canterbury 15 18 10 43
Little Bay 11 36 20 67
Sans Souci 26 70 14 110
Cronulla South 27 57 30 114
Royal National Park 25 93 22 140
Lucas Heights 14 35 8 57
  9am to noon noon to 3pm 3pm to 6pm 9 hour total
Scarborough 51 28 17 96
Wollongong AWS 32 42 12 86
Cringilla 44 26 18 88
Albion Park 24 41 11 76

Further details of particularly heavy falls are given in the Downpours box below.

In Sydney, chaos consumed the morning peak hour with radio traffic reports barely able to keep up with the flow of traffic disabilities. Blacked out traffic signals, stalled and crashed cars, and flash flooding made the worse by drains and waterways clogged with rubbish after many dry months lengthened commutes to 3 or 4 times the normal.

The situation was worst in the southern suburbs. At North Bexley, two people had to be helicoptered from the roofs of their submerged cars. A number of motorists were trapped when water flooded the M5 East motorway after plastic sheeting blocked a drain. An intensive care ambulance was stuck in rising floodwaters on Port Hacking Road, Sutherland.

Power was lost to 50,000 homes in southern Sydney and 2,000 more on the Central Coast. Emergency services were kept busy with more than 600 calls to clean up homes, schools and businesses after local flooding and to deal with fires started by lightning strikes.

In the Illawarra, feared devastating flash flooding like that in 1998 from heavy rain on the escarpment failed to eventuate when winds maintained a small angle to the cliffline. As a result, the heavy rain was more evenly spread with much of the Wollongong area from Albion Park north recording between 60 and 90mm during the late morning and afternoon. Lawrence Hargrave Drive between Clifton and Coalcliff was closed as was the adjacent main Illawarra Railway due to feared landslides and earth movement.

National weather extremes for today

Data provided by the Bureau of Meteorology

Records set this day: (none known)

Quality control note: Data is final. It includes late-received rainfall data and has been subject to BoM quality control checks.
Data is as received at 13:38EST, 03/03/2004.

Weather observations for today
Noteworthy  Weather         Capital  Cities         Regional  Cities       Alpine  Stations
Bureau of Meteorology Rainfall Bulletins and Weather Notes

Hottest
Highest maximum temperature>Greatest variation above normal maximum Highest minimum temperatureGreatest variation above normal minimum

36.6 ROEBOURNE E Pilbara WA
36.4 ROEBOURNE AERO E Pilbara WA
36.0 MANDORA E Pilbara WA
36.0 BATCHELOR AERO N Rivers NT
35.5 MARBLE BAR COMPARISON E Pilbara WA

+6.6   22.7 MOUNT GAMBIER AERO Lower SE SA
+6.3   36.6 ROEBOURNE E Pilbara WA
+6.2   22.6 ROBE Lower SE SA
+6.2   19.8 BALLARAT AERODROME Western Plains VIC
+5.9   22.5 CASTERTON SHOWGROUNDS W Coast VIC
+5.9   21.8 HAMILTON AIRPORT W Coast VIC

27.0 NORTHERN ENDEAVOUR Islands ISL
26.2 TROUGHTON ISLAND N Kimberley WA
26.0 COCONUT ISLAND N Peninsula QLD
25.9 HORN ISLAND N Peninsula QLD
25.7 COCOS ISLAND AIRPORT Islands ISL

+7.5   14.5 IVANHOE POST OFFICE Southwest Plains NSW
+7.4   19.2 ALI CURUNG N Plateau NT
+6.3   12.7 BURRINJUCK DAM SW Slopes N NSW
+6.2   14.0 WALGETT AIRPORT AWS NW Plains W NSW
+6.0   14.5 BREWARRINA HOSPITAL Upper Darling NSW

Coldest
Lowest maximum temperatureGreatest variation below normal maximum Lowest minimum temperatureGreatest variation below normal minimum

5.0 THREDBO AWS Snowy Mtns NSW
6.5 CHARLOTTE PASS (KOSCIUSKO CHALET) Snowy Mtns NSW
7.3 PERISHER VALLEY SKI CENTRE Snowy Mtns NSW
7.9 STRATHGORDON VILLAGE W Coast TAS
8.0 MT HOTHAM Upper NE VIC
8.0 SCOTTS PEAK DAM W Coast TAS

-4.4   18.0 BALGAIR Eucla WA
-4.4   16.0 CAMDEN AIRPORT AWS Illawarra NSW
-4.1   18.6 LEONORA Goldfields WA
-4.1   16.2 IVANHOE POST OFFICE Southwest Plains NSW
-3.8   16.6 PARRAMATTA NORTH (MASONS DRIVE) Sydney--east NSW

-46.9 CAPE JAFFA (CURLEY HILLS) Lower SE SA
-4.9 LIAWENEE Central Plateau TAS
-3.0 ROSS (THE BOULEVARDS) Midlands TAS
-2.7 TUNNACK FIRE STATION Southeast TAS
-2.2 LAKE ST CLAIR NATIONAL PARK Central Plateau TAS

-5.4   6.0 MURCHISON W Gascoyne WA
-5.4   2.2 STRAHAN AERODROME W Coast TAS
-5.2   -1.1 BUSHY PARK (BUSHY PARK ESTATES) Derwent Valley TAS
-5.1   8.2 KALBARRI Central West WA
-5.0   -0.5 GEEVESTON (CEMETERY ROAD) Southeast TAS

Wettest Major City Extremes
Todays highest rainfall totals for the 24 hours to 9am. It includes the top 5 totals nationally followed by all reported falls of 50mm or more.

107.4 GOSFORD (NARARA RESEARCH STATION) AWS Hunter Valley NSW
92.0 JAMBEROO (THE RIDGE) Illawarra NSW
74.0 YAMBA PILOT STATION North Coast NSW
73.0 EVANS HEAD RAAF BOMBING RANGE AWS North Coast NSW
71.0 MOURILYAN HARBOUR N Coast--Herbert QLD

SOUTH AUSTRALIA
    Upper North
53.6 PORT GERMEIN (GOWAN BRAE)

QUEENSLAND
    N Coast--Herbert
71.0 MOURILYAN HARBOUR
    Brisbane/SE Coast
58.4 LAKE COOROIBAH(PINES AV)

NEW SOUTH WALES
    North Coast
74.0 YAMBA PILOT STATION
73.0 EVANS HEAD RAAF BOMBING RANGE AWS
62.0 ILUKA (OWEN ST)
    MidNorth Coast S
69.4 DIAMOND HEAD (POBBLEBONKS)
    Hunter Valley
107.4 GOSFORD (NARARA RESEARCH STATION) AWS
70.0 WYONG (WYONG RIVER)
64.6 WYONG (WYONG BOWLING CLUB)
62.2 GOSFORD NORTH (GLENNIE ST)
62.0 MANGROVE MOUNTAIN AWS
60.2 YARRAMALONG (LEWENSBROOK)
60.2 PEATS RIDGE (WARATAH ROAD)
56.0 WYONG (KANGY ANGY (OURIMBAH CREEK))
54.0 OURIMBAH (DOG TRAP ROAD)
53.2 GOROKAN (GOOBARABAH ST)
52.0 GEARS (WYONG RIVER)
    Sydney--east
63.1 PARRAMATTA NORTH (MASONS DRIVE)
54.2 ROOKWOOD (HAWTHORNE AVE)
54.0 CRONULLA SOUTH BOWLING CLUB
52.0 TURRAMURRA (KISSING POINT ROAD)
51.0 AUDLEY (ROYAL NATIONAL PARK)
50.4 PYMBLE (CANISIUS COLLEGE)
    Sydney--west
60.0 BEROWRA (GOODWYN ROAD)
    Illawarra
92.0 JAMBEROO (THE RIDGE)

  Max+/- norm Min+/- normRain to 9am
BROOME AIRPORT 33.9 +2.4 21.5 +3.3 0.0
ALBANY AIRPORT 21.5 +2.6 11.0 +1.2 6.2
PERTH AIRPORT 22.8 +1.2 11.7 +1.3 2.2
KALGOORLIE-BOULDER AIRPORT 17.3 -3.3 9.5 +0.9 11.4
DARWIN AIRPORT 32.3 +0.3 22.1 0.0 0.0
ALICE SPRINGS AIRPORT 28.4 +5.4 5.9 -2.4 0.0
ADELAIDE (KENT TOWN) 22.7 +3.8 14.9 +4.7 0.0
MOUNT GAMBIER AERO 22.7 +6.6 10.1 +2.8 0.0
CAIRNS AERO 26.1 -1.5 21.3 +1.5 3.4
TOWNSVILLE AERO 28.1 +0.5 17.6 0.0 0.0
ROCKHAMPTON AERO 26.7 +0.8 17.8 +3.6 0.0
BRISBANE AERO 23.6 14.6 2.4
AMBERLEY AMO 23.4 -0.5 13.5 +3.3 0.4
ARMIDALE AIRPORT AWS 16.9 7.2 0.0
COFFS HARBOUR MO 21.2 -0.1 13.7 +1.9 7.8
NEWCASTLE NOBBYS SIGNAL STATION AWS 19.0 -0.9 14.0 +2.1 15.0
SYDNEY (OBSERVATORY HILL) 17.5 -1.8 14.0 +2.5 37.6
PROSPECT DAM 16.5 -3.6 13.9 +3.7 27.0
WOLLONGONG UNIVERSITY 16.8 -3.2 14.0 +2.1 27.6
CANBERRA AIRPORT 16.3 +0.9 7.9 +4.7 0.0
WAGGA WAGGA AMO 21.2 +4.0 10.2 +4.2 0.0
MILDURA AIRPORT 19.9 +1.0 11.7 +4.2 0.4
EAST SALE AIRPORT 19.7 +2.9 7.0 +0.7 0.2
MELBOURNE REGIONAL OFFICE 22.3 +5.7 9.0 +0.4 0.0
LAVERTON RAAF 20.0 +3.3 6.0 -1.7 0.0
BALLARAT AERODROME 19.8 +6.2 5.2 -0.6 0.0
LAUNCESTON AIRPORT 14.1 +0.1 1.8 -2.8 0.0
HOBART (ELLERSLIE ROAD) 14.4 0.0 4.2 -2.7 0.0

Downpours Gales & Gusts
High rainfall for periods of 6 hours or less. Highest wind gusts above 89km/h (storm force) or mean wind above 62km/h (gale force). Wind direction and mean windspeed shown in brackets.
QUEENSLAND
    Gulf Country
KOWANYAMA AIRPORT
10.8mm in 1 hr to 16:00 10.8mm/h
NEW SOUTH WALES
    Far Northwest
WILCANNIA AERODROME AWS
19.2mm in 1 hr to 22:00 19.2mm/h
    North Coast
EVANS HEAD RAAF BOMBING RANGE
11.8mm in 1 hr to 01:00 11.8mm/h
BYRON BAY (CAPE BYRON AWS)
5.8mm in 34 min to 03:34 10.2mm/h
10.2mm in 1 hr to 04:00 10.2mm/h
    Hunter Valley
GOSFORD (NARARA RESEARCH STATION) AWS
42.2mm in 1 hr to 07:00 42.2mm/h
10.4mm in 1 hr to 09:00 10.4mm/h
82.0mm in 3 hr to 09:00 27.3mm/h
MANGROVE MOUNTAIN AWS
37.0mm in 1 hr to 04:00 37.0mm/h
43.0mm in 3 hr to 06:00 14.3mm/h
    Sydney--east
SYDNEY AIRPORT AMO
10.4mm in 27 min to 09:27 23.1mm/h
22.4mm in 31 min to 09:58 43.4mm/h
13.0mm in 17 min to 10:15 45.9mm/h
50.0mm in 3 hr to 12:00 16.7mm/h
60.0mm in 6 hr to 15:00 10.0mm/h
7.0mm in 19 min to 21:30 22.1mm/h
SYDNEY (OBSERVATORY HILL)
14.6mm in 1 hr to 07:00 14.6mm/h
10.6mm in 30 min to 09:30 21.2mm/h
10.6mm in 1 hr to 09:30 10.6mm/h
15.0mm in 3 hr to 12:00 5.0mm/h
BANKSTOWN AIRPORT AWS
12.8mm in 1 hr to 08:30 12.8mm/h
11.0mm in 1 hr to 09:00 11.0mm/h
20.0mm in 3 hr to 09:00 6.7mm/h
CANTERBURY RACECOURSE AWS
10.6mm in 1 hr to 07:30 10.6mm/h
15.0mm in 3 hr to 09:00 5.0mm/h
HOMEBUSH (OLYMPIC STADIUM) AWS
12.2mm in 30 min to 07:30 24.4mm/h
14.0mm in 1 hr to 07:30 14.0mm/h
18.4mm in 1 hr to 08:00 18.4mm/h
28.0mm in 3 hr to 09:00 9.3mm/h
10.6mm in 1 hr to 11:30 10.6mm/h
    Sydney--west
HOLSWORTHY CONTROL RANGE
13.2mm in 1 hr to 14:30 13.2mm/h
13.0mm in 1 hr to 15:00 13.0mm/h
18.0mm in 3 hr to 15:00 6.0mm/h
HORSLEY PARK EQUESTRIAN CENTRE AWS
15.0mm in 3 hr to 09:00 5.0mm/h
    Illawarra
NOWRA RAN AIR STATION AWS
10.4mm in 1 hr to 13:00 10.4mm/h
15.0mm in 3 hr to 15:00 5.0mm/h
JERVIS BAY (PT PERPENDICULAR AWS)
13.8mm in 1 hr to 06:00 13.8mm/h
16.0mm in 3 hr to 06:00 5.3mm/h
15.0mm in 3 hr to 09:00 5.0mm/h
10.6mm in 1 hr to 10:00 10.6mm/h
WOLLONGONG UNIVERSITY
64.0mm in 6 hr to 15:00 10.7mm/h
CAMDEN AIRPORT AWS
15.0mm in 3 hr to 12:00 5.0mm/h
BELLAMBI AWS
11.2mm in 30 min to 10:30 22.4mm/h
14.6mm in 1 hr to 10:30 14.6mm/h
43.4mm in 3 hr 30 min to 14:00 12.4mm/h
40.0mm in 3 hr to 15:00 13.3mm/h
70.0mm in 6 hr to 15:00 11.7mm/h
10.4mm in 1 hr to 16:30 10.4mm/h
ALBION PARK (WOLLONGONG AIRPORT)
20.4mm in 1 hr to 12:00 20.4mm/h
32.0mm in 3 hr to 12:00 10.7mm/h
10.8mm in 1 hr to 13:00 10.8mm/h
14.8mm in 1 hr to 14:00 14.8mm/h
16.2mm in 1 hr to 15:00 16.2mm/h
42.0mm in 3 hr to 15:00 14.0mm/h
73.0mm in 6 hr to 15:00 12.2mm/h
    South Coast
MONTAGUE ISLAND LIGHTHOUSE
10.4mm in 1 hr to 10:00 10.4mm/h
ULLADULLA AWS
7.6mm in 32 min to 04:00 14.2mm/h
14.4mm in 1 hr to 04:00 14.4mm/h
17.0mm in 3 hr to 06:00 5.7mm/h
No reports of wind gusts above 90km/h or sustained winds above 63km/h