Wild weather hinders search for deckhand
Torrential rain and wild weather are hampering the search for a 39-year-old deckhand who was washed overboard from a boat off the Gold Coast on Friday morning.
Rescuers now hold grave concerns for the man, who has not been seen since the 15-metre fishing vessel capsized.
Heavy rain, strong winds and high seas have prevented authorities from using aircraft in the search.
Water Police found debris, including a life ring and a barrel from the capsized boat off the northern NSW coast near Ballina on Saturday afternoon.
''That indicates to us that we're searching in the right area,'' said a spokeswoman from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which is co-ordinating the effort.
The skipper of the capsized boat was rescued by helicopter crew on Friday after he spent two hours trapped in an air-pocket in the vessel.
He had been forced to abandon the sinking boat, and then got into a life raft and activated an emergency beacon.
He was taken to hospital with minor cuts and hypothermia.
The very wet start to autumn took its toll on Brisbane on Saturday, with severe traffic congestion, accidents and cancelled events marking the weekend.
The rain also hit the state's south-west hard. The council was knocking on doors at homes in Dalby, where Myall Creek was expected to peak at three metres on Saturday night.
The Western Downs mayor, Ray Brown, warned that water would enter homes if the levels reached 2.8 metres.
It is another blow to residents who experienced significant flooding on the Australia Day weekend and a severe flood two years ago.
The council is also monitoring the nearby towns of Chinchilla and Moonie, which are on flood alert.
There has also been heavy rain in the regions around Mackay, Bundaberg and Rockhampton. Forecasters expected about 100 millimetres of rain to fall on Bundaberg in the 24 hours until Sunday afternoon.
Dam authorities were on high alert and monitoring possible weather events that could affect communities in Queensland so recently struck by flooding.
The Water Supply Minister, Mark McArdle, said recent heavy rainfall had increased the water in dams above levels set by the government, and releases were continuing to bring them back to temporary full supply levels.
He also said the Bureau of Meteorology had advised the government it was likely there could be cyclones well into this month.
''In terms of long-range weather forecasts specifically for the second and third week of March, we have contacted the BoM and asked their advice,'' Mr McArdle said.
''We have spoken to the BoM and they advised that late February, early March is the more likely time for a surge in the monsoon and hence increased chances of cyclone formation,'' he said.
The government has reduced the water supply levels of Wivenhoe and North Pine Dams to 88 per cent to provide extra flood mitigation capacity during the wet season.
''This strategy allowed for minimum impact on property downstream from the dam while there were other flows into the Brisbane River, then to be able to drain the dam down before any further significant rainfall.''
Mr McArdle said advice to his department last week from the Seqwater chief executive, Terri Benson, outlined dam operations in response to the latest bureau forecasts.
''The flood operations centre is constantly monitoring the weather forecasts and relies on advice from the BoM. There is regular communication between Seqwater and the BoM with the normal focus being the seven-day forecast, given the high uncertainty any further out,'' she said.