This brochure describes the flood
warning system operated by the Australian Government, Bureau of
Meteorology for the Herbert 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.
Flood RiskThe Herbert River catchment is located on Queensland's north tropical coast to the north of Ingham. The Herbert River has its headwaters in a high rainfall area of the Dividing Range near Herberton and flows through a gorge to the coastal plain near Ingham. The river continues to its mouth near Lucinda where the catchment area is approximately 9000 square kilometres.The flood-producing rainfalls, up to 600mm over a few days, usually occur in the lower part of the catchment. In less frequent events, the highest rainfalls occur in the upper catchment above Gleneagle.
The Herbert River responds quickly to heavy rainfall and river rises can be rapid and velocities very high. The area around Ingham is very flat and the town itself is located on the floodplain of the river. Several natural watercourses distribute floodwaters through the town during major flooding with virtually the whole town being at risk from flooding. Floodwater up to depths of 3 metres above ground level occurs in low parts of the town, requiring the evacuation of residents and their property from low lying areas.
Since records commenced in early 1900s, major floods have occurred regularly in the Herbert River. Major floods usually occur in the wet season from January to March, but smaller floods have occurred in April and December. The figure below shows the significant flood peaks which have occurred at the Ingham Pump Station since records began in 1916.
Flood ForecastingThe Bureau of Meteorology operates a flood warning system for the Herbert River catchment based on a network of rainfall and river height observations as shown on the map. Data is also recieved froma network of automatic telephone telemetry, rainfall and river height stations owned and operated by the Department of Nattural Resources and Mines.
The installation of the real time ALERT flood reporting network enables predictions to be made earlier and with more accuracy. The Bureau's Flood Warning Centre issues Flood Warnings and River Height Bulletins for the Herbert River catchment during flood events. Quantitative flood forecasts are issued when moderate flood levels are likely to be exceeded.
Herbert ALERT SystemThe Herbert River ALERT flood warning system was completed in 1995 as a co-operative project between the Bureau of Meteorology and the Hinchinbrook Shire Council. The system comprises a network of rainfall and river height field stations located above and below the Herbert River Gorge and which report via VHF radio to a base station computer located in the Council office in Ingham.The field stations send reports for every 1 millimetre of rainfall and every 50 millimetre change in river height.
The base station computer in the Hinchinbrook Shire Council office collects the data and has software that displays it in graphical and tabular form. The data is also received by the Bureau's Flood Warning Centre where it is used in hydrologic models to produce river height predictions.
Flood Warnings and Bulletins
The Bureau of Meteorology issues Flood Warnings and River Height Bulletins for the Herbert River catchment 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.
Internet/World Wide Web
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 Herbert River catchment - it contains the flood gauge heights of the more significant recent floods.
[*] This height is taken from an old gauge site and may not relate to flood levels at the current gauge.
Historical flood heights for all river stations in the Herbert River Floodwarning network, as shown on the map, are available from the Bureau of Meteorology upon request.
At each flood warning river height station, the severity of flooding is described as minor, moderate or major according to the effects caused in the local area or in nearby downstream areas. Terms used in Flood Warnings are based on the following definitions.
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 Herbert River catchment.
(B) = Bridge (A) = Approaches
The above details are correct at the time of preparing this document. Up-to-date flood classifications and other details for all flood warning stations in the network are at:
Flood gauge information
For the latest rainfall and river height conditions please use the following link:
For the latest rainfall and river height network map please use the following link:Network maps
For further information, contact:
The Regional Hydrology Manager, Bureau of Meteorology, GPO Box 413, Brisbane Q 4001