Floods return to Carnarvon

Sarah QuintonThe West Australian
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Frustrated Carnarvon residents abandoned their homes last night as rising floodwaters engorged the Gascoyne River and threatened to inundate homes for the second time in just over two weeks.

Heavy rains from pastoral rangelands 200km east of Carnarvon filled the river and by yesterday afternoon the first signs of the floodwaters had reached Nine Mile Bridge, 15km east of the township.

As emergency service authorities closed roads and piled sandbags outside homes and businesses, residents wearily lifted what little furniture they had left out of harm's way.

Queues formed at petrol stations while those who had chosen to stay in their homes stockpiled food and water supplies and others built levies from sand on their driveways to protect their properties.

At 4pm yesterday, levels at the bridge had reached 4.2m and that was expected to peak at 6.8m by 10am today.

What was an empty river bed just days before, despite last month's 207mm of rain in 24 hours was now a rushing river.

But it was still metres short of the devastating floods on December 20 when levels reached 7.8m and burst the bank.

At 1pm yesterday river levels at Fishy Pool peaked at 7.2m but had subsided to 7.16m at 4pm.

The Fire and Emergency Services Authority alerted every plantation owner on the South River Road and gave growers plenty of time to decide to stay or go.

Shire president Dudley Maslen said the biggest worry was not the rising levels from the river but water channelling into Nickel Bay Flats that was now an inland sea since last month's floods.

After taking a bird's-eye view of the catchment in a plane yesterday, he said the river had not broken its banks upstream.

Mr Maslen said stockpiles of sandbags had been prepared in the shire depot behind the shire levy bank and the evacuation centre was ready.

"As the floodwaters reach the low-lying areas some of those areas will overflow," he said.

Last night, the shire closed Bibawarra Crossing and South River Road, where many of the plantation growers live.

The floodwaters are expected to remain for at least 48 hours.

Main Roads closed the North West Coastal Highway at the Shark Bay turn-off at 6pm as rising river levels flooded the road.

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