FLOOD WARNING SYSTEM
for the
FLINDERS RIVER

This brochure describes the flood warning system operated by the Australian Government, Bureau of Meteorology for the Flinders River. It includes reference information which will be useful for understanding Flood Warnings and River Height Bulletins issued by the Bureau's Flood Warning Centre during periods of high rainfall and flooding.

Cloncurry River at Cloncurry
Cloncurry River at Cloncurry
Contained in this document is information about:
(Last updated Nov 2011)

Flood Risk

The Flinders River catchment is located in north west Queensland and drains an area of approximately 109,000 square kilometres. The river rises in the Great Dividing Range, 110 kilometres northeast of Hughenden and flows initially in a westerly direction towards Julia Creek, before flowing north to the vast savannah country downstream of Canobie. It passes through its delta and finally into the Gulf of Carpentaria, 25 kilometres west of Karumba. The Cloncurry and Corella Rivers, its major tributaries, enter the river from the southwest above Canobie. There are several towns in the catchment including Hughenden, Richmond, Julia Creek and Cloncurry. Floods normally develop in the headwaters of the Flinders, Cloncurry and Corella Rivers. General heavy rainfall situations can develop from cyclonic influences in the Gulf of Carpentaria which cause widespread flooding, particularly in the lower reaches below Canobie. 

Previous Flooding

Previous flood information for the Flinders Rivers is well documented. The towns of Hughenden, Richmond and Cloncurry have extensive peak height records dating back some 50 years.

Highest Annual Flood Peak Diagram  
Highest Annual Flood Peak Diagram

Flood Forecasting

The Bureau of Meteorology operates a flood warning system for the Flinders River based on a rainfall and river height observations network shown on the map. The network consists of a number of volunteer rainfall and river height observers who forward observations by telephone when the initial flood height has been exceeded at their station, as well as automatic telephone telemetry stations at Mount Emu Plains, Glendower, Richmond, Etta Plains, Cloncurry, Julia Creek, Landsborough Highway, Dugald River, Canobie and Walkers Bend, which are operated by the Department of the Environment and Resource Management.

The Bureau's Flood Warning Centre issues Flood Warnings and River Height Bulletins for the Gulf Rivers, including the Flinders River, during flood events. Qualitative flood forecasts are issued when moderate flood levels are likely to be exceeded. 

Local Information

The five Shire Council's situated throughout the Flinders River catchment (Carpentaria, Cloncurry, McKinlay, Richmond and Flinders) may be able to provide further information on flooding in your area of the Flinders River catchment.

Flood Warnings and Bulletins

The Bureau of Meteorology issues Flood Warnings and River Height Bulletins for the Gulf River catchments, including the Flinders River basin, regularly during floods. They are sent to radio stations for broadcast, and to local Councils, emergency services and a large number of other agencies involved in managing flood response activities. Flood Warnings and River Height Bulletins are available via :

Radio
Radio stations, particularly the local ABC, and local commercial stations, broadcast Flood Warnings and River Height Bulletins soon after issue. 

Local response organisations
These include the Councils, Police, and State Emergency Services in the local area. 

Internet/World Wide Web
Flood Warnings, River Height Bulletins and other weather related data is available on the Bureau's Web page at http://www.bom.gov.au . The Queensland Flood Warning Centre website is http://www.bom.gov.au/qld/flood/ .

Telephone Weather
Flood Warnings are available through a recorded voice retrieval system, along with a wide range of other weather related and climate information.

Main Directory Phone 1900 955 360
Flood Warnings Phone 1300 659 219

Telephone Weather Services Call Charges:
1900 numbers: 77c per minute incl. GST; 1300 numbers: Low call cost - around 27.5c incl. GST.
(More from international, satellite, mobile or public phones)

Interpreting Flood Warnings and River Height Bulletins

Flood Warnings and River Height Bulletins contain observed river heights for a selection of the river height monitoring locations. The time at which the river reading has been taken is given together with its tendency (e.g. rising, falling, steady or at its peak). The Flood Warnings may also contain predictions in the form of minor, moderate or major flooding for a period in the future. River Height Bulletins also give the height above or below the road bridge or causeway for each river station located near a road crossing. 

One of the simplest ways of understanding what the actual or predicted river height means is to compare the height given in the Warning or Bulletin with the height of previous floods at that location. 

The table below summarises the flood history of the Flinders River basin - it contains the flood gauge heights of the more significant recent floods.

River height station 
Jan/Feb
1974
Jan
1981
Jan
1984
Jan
1991
Feb
1991
Jan
2009
Feb
2009
Mt Emu Plains* 4.00 4.79 3.21 4.55 3.41 - -
Glendower* 5.34 5.54 4.37 4.42 7.00 3.32 -
Hughenden 2.05 2.60 2.1 0 2.4 0 3.9 0 2.80 2.90
Marathon - 10.8  11.6  9.50 10.3  - -
Richmond 8.47 7.80 8.40 7.40 7.50 8.13 8.21
Richmond* 8.50 8.07 8.76 7.69 5.92 8.31 8.21
Hulberts Bridge 12.5 12.05 12.6 12.00 11.30 - -
Etta Plains* 11.30 10.72 10.94 - - 10.67 10.05
Julia Creek* 5.43 - 3.16 4.82 3.85 3.98 -
Landsborough Highway* - - - - - 6.33 6.41
Cloncurry - 5.70 4.80 7.80 4.60 - -
Cloncurry* 7.26 5.70 4.80 7.80 4.85  8.03 7.79
Brightlands - - - - - - -
Carsland - 6.00 - 5.20 3.72 - -
Dugald River* 5.67 4.15 3.16 - - 6.08 4.61
Canobie 11.10  8.00 7.60 8.50 7.00 8.15 8.55
Canobie* 11.10 9.22 9.25 - - - -
Bunda Bunda 5.00 1.50 - - - - -
Cowan Downs------7.75
Walkers Bend* 15.67 12.74 11.95 15.23 11.57 13.36 15.06

All heights are in metres on flood gauges
*This height was measured by an automatic site and may differ from a manual observation height.

Historical flood heights for all river stations in the Flinders River Floodwarning network, as shown on the map, are available from the Bureau of Meteorology upon request.

FLINDERS RIVER CATCHMENT - ASSESSMENT OF THE FLOOD POTENTIAL

Major flooding requires a large scale rainfall situation over the Flinders River catchment. The following can be used as a rough guide to the likelihood of flooding in the catchment:

100mm in 24 hours in isolated areas, with lesser rains of 50mm over more extensive areas will cause stream rises and the possibility of minor flooding. If similar rainfalls have been recorded in the previous 2-3 days, then moderate to major flooding may develop.

100mm in 24 hours will cause isolated flooding in the immediate area of the heavy rain.

General 100mm or heavier falls in 24 hours over a wide area will most likely cause major flooding, particularly in the middle to lower reaches of the Flinders, Cloncurry and Corella Rivers. 

Flood Classifications

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Each river height station has a pre-determined flood classification which details heights on gauges at which minor, moderate and major flooding commences. Other flood heights may also be defined which indicate at what height the local road crossing or town becomes affected by floodwaters. 

The table below shows the flood classifications for selected river height stations in the Flinders River catchment. 

River Height Station
First Report Height
Crossing Height
Minor Flood Level
Crops & Grazing
Moderate Flood Level
Towns and Houses
Major Flood Level
Mt Emu Plains* - - - - - - -
Glendower* - - 5.0 - 7.0 - 8.0
Hughenden 1.0 3.8 (B)  2.0  - 3.0 4.0  4.0
Marathon 2.0 6.0  - 8.0 9.0
Richmond 3.0  5.8 (B)  5.0 6.0  6.0 8.0
Richmond* - 6.38 (X) 4.5 - 6.0 - 8.2
Hulberts Bridge 2.0 3.9 (B) 7.0 10.0 10.0 12.2 12.0
Etta Plains* - - - - - - -
Julia Creek* - - 3.5 - 4.0 - 4.5
Landsborough Highway* - - - - - - -
Brightlands 1.0 1.0 (C) 3.0  - 4.0 5.0
Cloncurry 3.0 10.5 (B) 3.0 - 5.0 7.5 7.0
Cloncurry* - 10.5 (B) 3.0 - 5.0 7.5 7.0
Carsland 1.0 2.0 2.0 3.0(d/s) 5.0
Dugald River* - - - - - - -
Canobie 3.0 3.0  - 4.0 5.5
Canobie* - - - - - - -
Bunda Bunda 0.5 0.6 (X) 1.8 3.5 3.0 7.0 4.0
Cowan Downs4.00.0 (X)4.05.05.07.06.0
Walkers Bend 3.0 5.4 (B) 5.0 - 5.3 5.6
Walkers Bend* - 5.4 (B) 5.0 - 5.3 - 5.6
 All heights are in metres on flood gauges. * This station represents an automatic site.
(B) = Bridge  (C) = Causeway  (X) = Crossing

The above details are current at the time of preparing this document, but are subject for review. Up-to -date flood classifications and other details for all flood warning stations in the network are at:

http://www.bom.gov.au/qld/flood/networks/index.shtml

Catchment Map showing the Flinders River flood warning network

Click here to view map as:          PNG             PDF (1.1M bytes)

For further information, contact:
The Regional Director, Bureau of Meteorology, GPO Box 413, Brisbane Q 4001