Hundreds of Queenslanders have fled to higher ground or been rescued from floodwaters, with thousands remaining on high alert as severe thunderstorms continue to batter the southeast of the state.
A massive low pressure trough dumped intense rainfall – up to 160mm in six hours – over areas of Brisbane, Ipswich, Lockyer Valley, Darling Downs, Moreton Bay, Sunshine Coast, Wide Bay-Burnett, Bundaberg and Gladstone.
On Friday evening, the system moved north between Caboolture and Gladstone – including Maroochydore, Gympie, Bundaberg, Cooroy, Nambour and Rainbow Beach – with a severe weather warning issued for those areas.
The Bureau of Meteorology has issued major flood warnings for the Condamine, Logan and Bremer rivers and Warrill, Laidley and Lockyer creeks.
BOM senior forecaster Laura Boekel pointed out that the deluge was moving in the southeast, with intense rains capable of triggering flash floods and landslides.
“That’s when the situation can become life-threatening,” she told reporters on Friday.
More than 700 roads are affected by floodwaters, including the Bruce Hwy near Gin Gin, with queensland Fire and emergency services carry out 20 rescues in 24 hours.
Gympie Regional Council has issued a Watch and Act to residents, with heavy rainfall forecast Friday afternoon.
“This can cause dangerous flash flooding. Residents are asked to stay off the roads,” the council’s alert said.
The worst flooding is around Laidley, Gatton and Grantham in the Lockyer Valley, west of Brisbane, south around Beaudesert, and at Warwick, Cecil Plains, Millerman and Killarney in the Southern Downs.
Fire and water rescue technicians evacuated residents from homes in Warwick after they were hit by floodwaters on Friday afternoon.
Around 300 homes were affected in Laidley where the River Lockyer gushed from William St, the main thoroughfare, earlier on Friday.
South East queensland UHF Emergency Services team founder Shane Barnes was shocked by the intensity.
“I started my career in the emergency services and went to secondary school in Laidley. Never in my life would I have imagined so much water in William Street,” he tweeted on Friday.
The Scenic Rim Council has issued an emergency alert warning that several roads have been cut off by flooding from the Logan River.
Prime Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk said the rain was not as consistent and intense as the downpours that caused catastrophic flooding in February, but would persist longer than expected until Saturday.
“Please don’t worry,” she told reporters on Friday.
“The main thing is to listen to the alerts and we will keep everyone informed as much as possible.”
The Brisbane River was not expected to exceed a minor flood stage, but the City Council had opened sandbag stations and parts of Rocklea and Oxley were flooded on Friday afternoon.
Deputy Police Commissioner Steve Gollschewski urged people to stay connected, heed warnings and flee at the right time.
He urged people not to drive through floodwaters as there had already been a number of “avoidable rescues”.
“We have lost far too many lives on our roads this year and in previous events,” Mr Gollschewski said.
A powerful easterly swell and strong outflow winds caused four-metre waves, with the BOM warning of dangerous surf conditions and possible coastal erosion between Fraser Island and the NSW border.
The unseasonal deluge is Queensland’s sixth deadly flood since December, which scientists have attributed to a second La Nina weather pattern in two years.