Watch: Drone view of state’s inland sea
RECORD-breaking rain is predicted to unleash life-threatening flash flooding - with towns isolated, roads cut and motorists stranded - as bursts of very heavy rainfall are dumped across north Queensland.
But a repeat of the biblical tropical monsoon weather event that devastated Townsville and central western Queensland last February is unlikely, according to weather experts.
In a 650km stretch of coast, from Mackay to Innisfail, a flood watch has been posted for coastal catchments in coming days.
At Ayr, up to 600mm of rain cut the Bruce Highway, shut eight schools, stranded hundreds of motorists and swamped shops and homes yesterday.
"It's bucketed down,'' Burdekin Shire Council Mayor Lyn McLaughlin told The Courier-Mail.
"We had a lot of water in a short time. It was the intensity of the rain event. It did cause a lot of challenges. Nothing could have prepared us for half-a-metre of rain in 24 hours."
Ayr's 421mm was the town's highest daily total on record, with data back to 1951.
Rita Island, at the mouth of the Burdekin River, recorded 529mm of rain in 24 hours.
Police and emergency crews hope floodwaters recede today to open the highway with scores of road trains, buses and motorists stuck inside the flood zone.
Flinders River at Richmond is at a moderate flood level and the inland road and rail route between Townsville and Mount Isa has been cut, while the Cloncurry River, Gregory River, Leichhardt River and Norman Rivers are at minor flood levels.
Widespread rain and thunderstorms from Cape York, to Mount Isa, to the Whitsundays are from a tropical low pressure system centred over the Gulf of Carpentaria and an associated trough extending across northern Queensland.
"It's very intense rainfall," the Bureau of Meteorology's Peter Markworth said.
Vicki Miller, who lives on Mingela's Springview Station up north, snapped a candid shot of her 11-month-old son Hayes as he saw rainfall for the first time.
At Winton, the Australian Age of Dinosaurs museum turned into a water park.
Dinosaur canyon with replica dinosaurs and outdoor exhibits was awash as a cliff face turned into a waterfall.
"My boots were full of water,'' caretaker Trish Sloan said.
"It was one of the best downpours I've seen.
"We had 141mm, the highest-ever 24hr rainfall recorded since we opened the laboratory in 2009."