Floodwaters could engulf more than 3000 central Queensland homes when Rockhampton’s river rises to levels not seen in more than 60 years.
Authorities say the Fitzroy River could reach 9.5 metres at Rockhampton on Wednesday – a level which has not been recorded since major floods in 1954.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says there is a large volume of water flowing from the Mackenzie River into the Fitzroy River following from last week’s torrential rain from Cyclone Debbie.
Floodwaters could swamp more than 3000 homes and 1500 businesses in the low-lying parts of the state’s beef capital, cut off roads, the railway and the local airport.
“This is going to be a big one – this is going to be equivalent or bigger than 1954,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“Some people living in this town have not seen a flood of this magnitude.”
She said it would be greater than the 2011 and 1991 floods.
Earlier, authorities thought it might almost be as big as flood levels recorded a century ago, however this will not be the case. The peak will be lower than the 10.11 metres experienced in 1918.
Rockhampton Mayor Margaret Strelow said: “We don’t get a wall of water but a gentle inundation.”
However, she says it will still have a serious impact on Rockhampton’s economy.
An evacuation centre will be ready for people ahead of Wednesday.
It is expected homes in the Depot Hill area and low-lying parts of Berserker, Allenstown and Kawana will be inundated when the Fitzroy reaches the major flood level of 8.5 metres on Monday afternoon.
Additional emergency services personnel are being moved into city as the river rises.
Major flooding has already been recorded in the Mackenzie, Connors and Isaac rivers that flow into the Fitzroy following heavy rainfall from ex-cyclone Debbie.
Minor flooding has also occurred upstream in the Fitzroy, and major flooding is expected in the Yaamba area, north of Rockhampton, on Monday.
A temporary levee is being erected around Rockhampton airport by SES volunteers to allow it re-open sooner after it is flooded.
The airport is expected to close on Monday due to floodwaters.
The temporary levee, first used in the Charleville floods in 2008, is also being erected to protect homes in the north Rockhampton suburb of Berserker.