QUEENSLAND is relying on a $170 million highway overpass to keep the state connected this week when it is expected to face its first major test as Rockhampton prepares for major flooding after Cyclone Debbie.
Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey yesterday announced the Yeppoon traffic transition plan was expected to be enacted late today, meaning the Bruce Highway's low-lying southbound lanes would close but the new high-level overpass would remain open in both directions.
WATCH | Drone footage of the Yeppen Bridge on Sunday
Built after the 2011 floods peaked at 9.2m, virtually cutting off Rockhampton from the rest of the state for several weeks, the overpass was designed to withstand one-in-100 year floods.
Mr Bailey said most main roads west of Rockhampton would remain closed.
"With the volume of rainfall across the region, there is significant damage to road surfaces," Mr Bailey said.
Because the airport is due to close today, LifeFlight announced crews would be deployed in the Rescue Bell 412 twin-engine helicopter to help transfer patients from Rockhampton.
LifeFlight chief operations officer Brian Guthrie said: "It is very important for Queensland Health to be able to create an 'air bridge' for priority patients in and out of Rockhampton over the next seven days."
The North Coast rail line from Rockhampton to Ayr joined the privately owned rail line running south to Gladstone in closing down all services to the Capricorn Coast city.
Many residents spent yesterday preparing for the major floods to travel south down the Mackenzie River to the last station west of the city at Riverslea.
The Bureau of Meteorology expects the area to reach major flood levels of 8.5m by tomorrow.
By Wednesday night or Thursday morning, the bureau predicts those floodwaters to peak at up to 9.4m for the first time since massive floods drowned parts of the city in 1954. The emerging situation led to the first of a series of emergency alerts after lunchtime yesterday.
Rockhampton Mayor Margaret Strelow said the city was prepared for the floods but the economic impact would "still be dramatic".
"This council has been very, very disciplined for over 20 years in not approving development in those flood areas," Cr Strelow said.
"We're pretty jolly good at it. But there are existing businesses with existing use rights. And that's where the greatest impact will be felt."
One of the worst affected areas is likely to be the low-lying Depot Hill area on the river's southside, where locals regularly inundated with water are affectionately known as "swampies".
Steve Schatkowski, 65, who has lived in the suburb for more than 30 years, spent most of yesterday preparing for flooding.
"It's not the water that worries you," he said. "It's the clean-up after it's gone."
On the northside, council is hoping stage one flood mitigation works in Berserker will pass their first major test after they were installed following the 2011 floods.
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