Thunderstorms and heavy rain moved through the states of Queensland, New South Wales (NSW), and Victoria overnight (local time) from Friday, January 17, into Saturday, January 18, causing flash flooding and associated transportation disruptions. In Queensland, over 30 cm (12 in) of rain hit the state, with Gold Coast being particularly affected. Floodwater closed the M1 Highway at Helensvale and also impacted multiple sections of the Gold Coast highway. Up to 25 cm (10 in) of rain also hit parts of NSW and authorities warned that areas affected by the ongoing bush fires may experience dangerous run-offs and trees may be weakened. A minor flood watch is in effect for Orara, Bellinger, and Kalang rivers as of Saturday afternoon. Victoria received less rain and has not been impacted as hard as Queensland or NSW.
Further rainfall is forecast in the region into Sunday, January 19. The Bureau of Meteorology is warning that flash flooding and landslips are possible in Queensland and NSW, particularly in the areas impacted by the fires. Transportation, business, and power disruptions are possible in areas affected by the flooding.
Despite the recent rains, bush fires remain a threat in the region, particularly in NSW. According to the NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS), as of Saturday morning there are still 75 active bush fires and only 25 are contained. A heightened security presence, road closures, telecommunication disruptions, and power outages are to be expected in the vicinity of any wildfire. Up-to-date information on the fires in NSW can be found here, and in Victoria here.
Over 10.3 million hectares (25.5 million acres) of land have been burned, and at least 2000 houses destroyed since the wildfires broke out on October 9. At least 28 people have also died in the region as of January 13. Authorities have indicated that the fires were due to high temperatures and droughts.
Wildfires are an annual event in Australia between December and February; however, authorities have been on high alert since September 2015 over unseasonably warm temperatures, prompting scientists to speculate that climate change could be extending and increasing the intensity of the fire season.
Individuals in the affected areas are advised to monitor local weather reports, keep abreast of warnings, anticipate transportation and power disruptions, confirm road conditions prior to heading out, and adhere to any instructions issued by local authorities, notably evacuation orders.
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