Residents move to higher ground after rain surge
GOLD Coasters were last night preparing to flee to higher ground amid a major flood warning and Tweed Heads has been declared a natural disaster zone following a huge deluge across Queensland's southeast.
An evacuation centre has been set up after a flood warning for the Coomera River, with properties at Oxenford, Hope Island and Helensvale in the firing line and people warned to move to higher ground if necessary.
Yesterday's extraordinary weather event dumped up to 140mm of rain on the Gold Coast's northern suburbs in just three hours, leading to flash flooding at Coomera, Oxenford, Pacific Pines, and Coombabah and the closure of schools and businesses.
The downpour followed more than 235mm falling on the Sunshine Coast in the early hours of yesterday morning.
A massive sink hole at Mt Coolum's Nirvana Luxor Resort poured thousands of litres of water into the complex's underground car park and submerged three cars.
"It was like a waterfall going straight into the garage," resident Terry Martin said.
Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Harry Clarke said the dangerous flooding caused by the deluge falling over already soaked ground.
"Those sort of totals, while they're significant, two months ago wouldn't have caused anywhere near the same sort of issues," he said.
Footage emerged of a torrent of water flowing down streets at Mount Tamborine after a creek overflowed.
Coolangatta has already recorded it's wettest February ever, with 616mm of rainfall there so far this month.
The State Emergency Service had more than 580 calls for help across the southeast and north coast yesterday, with 18 calls for Swift Water Rescue assistance before 4pm. The calls for help came as the search for a 26-year-old woman missing near a waterfall at the Gold Coast Hinterland was called off due to the severe weather. Yang Chen, 26, was reported missing on Wednesday by a man she was walking with near Gorge Falls in the Tallebudgera Valley.
And a body, believed to be that of a missing 75-year-old kayaker, was pulled from the flooded Mary River on the Sunshine Coast. Police say it's unclear whether the man drowned in floodwaters or suffered a medical episode while kayaking on Sunday.
Tweed Shire has been declared a natural disaster area by the Federal Government due to the continued rain and flooding. The declaration provides Tweed Shire Council with access to money under the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements to repair essential public infrastructure damaged by flooding.
Flooding led to 22 schools and 31 early childhood centres in southeast Queensland being closed yesterday.
A Department of Education spokesman said a decision about today's school closures would be made by 7am and updated live on the department's emergency closed facilities website.
Western Downs Regional Council Mayor Paul McVeigh said the damage from inundating rain had been unfortunate, but "the morale around the place has been fantastic".
Last year there was just 158mm of rain in drought-declared Dalby. In just six weeks, the town has received 232mm. "There's not a farmer or a grazier that hasn't got a smile from ear to ear," Cr McVeigh said.
The weather bureau says yesterday was the peak of the heavy rainfall and residents in the southeast can expect a "real improvement" in the weather over the coming days.
"We'll still have some showers about but we are not expecting the widespread heavy rainfall," Mr Clarke said.
"So we're not drying out completely, but in context of the last week or so it's going to be much more run of the mill.
"We're not expecting a significant exacerbation of any of the flooding that's occurring."