(QUEENSLAND) JUST IN: Low-lying homes in the central QLD township of Sapphire have been evacuated and some people have been rescued from rooftops after a severe storm dumped more than 200 millimetres of rain early this morning #AceWeatherDesk report

#AceWeatherReport – Mar.18: Up to 215 millimetres fell into the Retreat Creek catchment, rapidly pushing the creek — which skirts the southern end of the town — to a major flood level:

The Bureau of Meteorology issued an emergency alert just before 5:00am, warning that low-lying areas would be affected. Evacuations began before dawn as ‘Flooding in Queensland’s Central Highlands sees parts of Sapphire township evacuated’ The Bureau of Meteorology’s Matt Marshall said a broad scale rain band also delivered decent falls to the Darling Downs, central west and into south-east Queensland.


Play Video. Duration: 23 seconds
Severe flooding in Sapphire saw people evacuated from the caravan park before dawn.

Along the coast, 550 millimetres of rain fell at Byfield, north of Yeppoon, stranding some campers in the national park.

Play Video. Duration: 36 seconds
Overflowing creek cuts off vehicle access as Byfield cops a drenching.

Disaster co-ordinator for the Central Highlands Regional Council Glenn Bell said the SES had already rescued a “number of people”.

A person was rescued from the top of their car by another local on Rubyvale Road, about 5 kilometres from the township.

“The SES has been out and had to assist people from the roof of their houses,” Mr Bell said.

SES volunteers stand next to water over a road.
SES are on the scene after flash flooding at the township of Sapphire in Queensland’s Central Highlands.(Supplied: Aleah Green)

“We’ve had a number of people stranded in floodwaters who have also had to be rescued.

“That all has been undertaken successfully at this stage.

“The big thing that we are going to have to do here is just wait until the floodwaters recede and we get teams into the area to understand the damage that has occurred and what assistance is needed.”

Waters receded to below major flood levels by mid-morning.

A flooded road.
Overnight storms caused flooding in the Central Highlands town of Sapphire.(Supplied: Ewan Letts)

Central Highlands Mayor Kerry Hayes said the caravan park had been evacuated and it was estimated that 30 to 60 residents on the flats could be affected.

“As far as we know, those people that are in any harm’s way, have moved to higher ground or moved to the SES shed,” he said.

“The difficulty is that the Gemfields is a very strong tourist attraction area and there may be tourists there that are not familiar with that.

“We need to inspect some property and just make sure we cover those people.”

Short, sharp burst

Mr Hayes said flash flooding in short, sharp bursts was common to the Sapphire terrain.

However, a flood of this size hadn’t been seen in the area for more than a decade.

A car with a caravan is parked nearby flooding.
A number of people were evacuated from the caravan park in Sapphire this morning.(Supplied: Ewan Letts)

“The catchment there is very short, you’ll see a spike in that water and then a decrease,” he said.

“I’ve spoken this morning to people on the ground at Sapphire, the creek’s come up quite sharp and hard and may go down just as quickly because there’s not that much water behind it.”

Resident Pat Vine said she saw some areas inundated early this morning.

“There are [mining] claims [with water] nearly up to the roof,” she said.

“Unfortunately, a lot people, because it happened at night, they didn’t get the warnings and they woke up and saw their places in flood.”

Flooding in a park in the Queensland Central Highlands township of Sapphire.
Flooding in a park in Sapphire.(Supplied: Ewan Letts)

Ewan Letts runs the local caravan park and said he moved visitors out before sunlight.

“We only had about seven vans in the park that we were able to evacuate safely,” he said.

“It is not as big an event as we’ve had in the past as in 2011, but still of some concern. 

“The bridge is still definitely well under water.”

“Just really widespread rainfall totals. It’s the kind of thing that wasn’t exactly hit or miss. Just about every rain gauge under this rain band picked something up,” he said.

“It’s going to be clearing more tomorrow, but we also have the broad risk of those embedded thunderstorms popping up again this afternoon and into tonight, broadly across central parts of the state.”

The RACQ said there were more than 100 roads closed across the state as of 3:00pm.

#AceWeatherDesk report ……Published: Mar.18: 2021:

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