SES receives 2800 calls for help as South East region cops deluge

Cars in Robina have been inundated. Courtesy:9 News

Schools in storm-ravaged South East Queensland will remain closed tomorrow as the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie dumps huge rainfall in the region.

Despite predictions the weather would ease tomorrow, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she wanted to be sure students, from Agnes Water south to the NSW border, weren’t put at any risk.

Ms Palaszczuk apologised to parents and carers for the inconvenience of shutting schools today.

“But I won’t (apologise) for putting safety front and centre,” she said in Brisbane this afternoon.

More than 2000 schools were closed today and workers have been sent home as the region braces for flash flooding from up to half a metre of rain expected to fall in the next 24 hours.

Emergency crews have had to save people from cars trapped in floodwaters in Brisbane, and on the Gold and Sunshine coasts, where some businesses and roads have been flooded.

On the Sunshine Coast, crews have rescued a couple and their four children, whose home was swamped by fast-rising floodwaters at Tanawha. A boat was able reach the family and bring them to safety.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

• Destructive winds and heavy rainfall are forecast for the Wide Bay and Burnett, Darling Downs and Granite Belt and Southeast Coast regions in Queensland as well as the Northern Rivers and parts of the Mid North Coast, Hunter, Metropolitan, North West Slopes and Plains and Northern Tablelands Forecast Districts in New South Wales.

• Emergency alerts have been issued for the Callide Dam and Kroombit Dam in the Banana Shire. Residents downstream of the dams are advised to monitor dam levels in case water releases are required. Residents should prepare now and are advised to consider relocating from areas at risk to the Biloela Civic Centre.

• The heaviest rainfall will occur from about 3pm AEST and into this evening. This rainfall will likely be very intense at times, leading to a risk of severe localised flash flooding. Locations that may be affected include Gladstone, Kingaroy, Bundaberg, Brisbane, Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast.

• Wind gusts of up to 125km/h are possible.

• All schools, court houses, universities and theme parks across South East Queensland are closed. Children already at school will be cared for but should be picked up as soon as possible. Schools will also be closed tomorrow.

• Virgin Australia has cancelled domestic flights at Queensland’s Gold Coast and Prosperine airports, no Qantas flights will operate to or from Gladstone.

• Dams are currently coping with the vast rainfall, but some releases may be necessary tomorrow or Saturday.

• Employers should send their employees home early before the rain intensifies at 3pm AEST.

• The afternoon peak hour commute is expected to be chaotic and a number of roads are already closed due to flooding.

• Public transport is free across South East Queensland from 10am AEST.

• Anyone who can stay home should stay home.

The SES says people have been rescued from cars caught in floodwaters in Brisbane, further south at Logan, and on the Gold and Sunshine coasts.

The SES has received 2800 calls for help across the state, with the number steadily rising, particularly in the southeast where people are desperately sandbagging their properties, and calling for help with leaking roofs.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services commissioner Katarina Carroll said emergency services were braced for many more calls.

“Whilst it’s looking pretty horrendous out there, it’s going to get worse,” she said.

She warned that as the weather worsens, emergency crews may not be in a position to rescue people.

The directive to close schools includes every public, independent and Catholic school in the region from Agnes Water south to the New South Wales border, and west to Nanango. Find a full list of school closures here.

All court houses, universities and theme parks across South East Queensland are closed.

Sandbagging stations have been set up across Brisbane, with some depots producing sandbags at a rate of 4000 per hour. Some depots were experiencing a wait time of up to one hour.

Virgin Australia has cancelled domestic flights at Queensland’s Gold Coast and Prosperine airports, while no Qantas flights will operate to or from Gladstone.

“What we know is that we are anticipating the heavy falls in a short duration of time,” senior meteorologist Matt Bass said.

“We’ve already seen some of those this morning, particularly in the Gold Coast hinterland and really short intensity rainfall is the concern. And that will lead to the flash flooding so it is just a risk with those heavy falls across the southeast of Queensland today.”

In New South Wales, towns most likely to be hit by heavy rain include Lismore, Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Tenterfield, Yamba, Glen Innes and Inverell.

From tomorrow the system is forecast to move offshore, but Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart has warned of very dangerous conditions until then.

But it appears many people are not heeding the warnings of authorities to stay out of floodwaters.

Two teenagers were filmed running through floodwaters with boogie boards at Mudgeeraba this morning where a driver earlier became trapped in his vehicle until being assisted by a fellow motorist.

Others have been spotted riding jetskis at a flooded dog park.

Authorities are keeping a close watch on dams in the southeast, but so far the facilities are coping with a vast amount of water.

But Queensland Deputy Premier Jackie Trad said water releases from Wivenhoe, west of Brisbane, are likely tomorrow or Saturday if the dam hits 90 percent of capacity.

Non-gated dams are overflowing on the Gold Coast but that’s not unusual during heavy rain falls.

Ms Palaszczuk, who’s back in Brisbane after visiting cyclone affected areas, said Debbie was far from done with Queensland.

“Everyone thinks because the cyclone has now been downgraded to a low pressure system, that everything’s OK,” she told 9NEWS.

“This is the time where we can see maximum damage and also loss to human life.”

Heavy rain is still falling over battered communities in the Whitsunday region.

Some towns in the cyclone’s strike zone remain cut off, tourists are stranded on resort islands, and 63,000 households still don’t have power days after Debbie began lashing the north on Monday.

Source: 9 News