Some areas of the east coast are receiving more than 10 times their average monthly rainfall.
THE predictions were dire. A deluge from the skies. A “huge” and “unusual” weather event bringing a “month’s worth of rain in three days”.
But as people stared up at beautiful blue skies on Saturday, more than few wondered where the showers had gone. Had the rain gods got cold feet?
“A month’s worth of rain in two days, my a**e,” one person on social media eloquently summed up the situation.
Even comedian Dave Hughes made reference to the rain, or lack of, at his weekend Sydney show.
What happened to the end-of-the-world rain that was supposed down Sydney today? pic.twitter.com/yWOlRmueu4
— Jason Murray (@JM77) May 20, 2017
— cheats (@simoncheatham) May 20, 2017
@gtlloyd ‘A month’s worth of rain in two days’ my arse.
— Alex (@CommanderPanic) May 20, 2017
However, meteorologists are having none of it. In fact, in some places it rained with even more force than expected.
Tristan Meyers, a meteorologist with Sky News Weather told news.com.au the belief it would bucket down everywhere was due to “Chinese whispers”.
Go back to Wednesday and warnings of heavy downpours were in full swing.
Scott Williams, from the Bureau of Meteorology’s extreme weather desk, said the creeping low pressure trough was an “impressive rain system” and the sheer size of the band made this a “huge weather event”.
“It’s unusual to get a band that extends right across the country this late outside of the traditional wet season,” he said.
The Bureau issued severe weather warnings for heavy rain and possible flash flooding for parts of Victoria and Queensland. South west WA was also expected to cop a drenching.
Brisbanites were warned to bring a brolly on Friday while Sydneysiders received the same advice for Saturday.
But as many in the Harbour City woke on Saturday morning all they could see was blue skies and bright sunshine.
However, just because it didn’t rain on you doesn’t mean it didn’t rain, weather experts have cautioned.
The worst of the weather was always predicted to be in northern Queensland. And it delivered.
By Thursday morning, Bowen in northern Queensland hadn’t seen a month’s worth of rain in several days — it had seen several months of rain in just a single day.
The trough acted as forecast said Mr Meyers. “Two separate rainbands moved over Australia’s east. The heavier one was in northeast Queensland, where places like Townsville had 115mm of rain in less than 24 hours, their wettest May day going back to the late 1800s,” he said.
May is typically a dry month in the tropics, where the average monthly rainfall is about 30mm to 50mm.
“The second rainband moved over NSW, Victoria and Tasmania. In Tasmania between 80-110mm of rain fell in less than 24 hours on Saturday, resulting in river flooding which is still occurring in the South Esk River,” said Mr Meyers.
Fingal, in Tasmania’s north east, had 102mm of rain in less than 24 hours, their wettest May day since 1882.
“Capital cities, and other places west and south of the Great Dividing Range, were never going to be the main recipient of the rainfall,” said Mr Meyers.
— Ruth Collins (@DrRLC) May 19, 2017
Hiding from the rain, 0430, Sydney Harbour Bridge pic.twitter.com/FYaKZFnNlu
— tim ritchie (@timritchie) May 19, 2017
Showers did come to Sydney, however. On Friday evening, much of the city was pelted with rain. In just two hours, between 6.30pm and 8.30pm, 6mm fell on the CBD.
Overall, 15mm fell on the harbour city but much of that had cleared by 6.30am leaving a bright and dry day.
A huge mass of rain was in the vicinity of Sydney but it kindly diverted off shore sparing the city. Further south, they weren’t so lucky with 92mm falling on Narooma.
Friday was easily Canberra’s wettest day of 2017 with a month’s worth of rain in one 24 hour period.
“Brisbane actually got less than anticipated, only 14mm all up, but the Gold Coast had 52mm in the 24 hours to 9am on Saturday,” said Mr Meyers.
So why did many people think they were going to get rained on when it wasn’t the case?
“Weather is a complex phenomenon, but experienced meteorologists using weather models can be 90 per cent accurate, even several days ahead,” he said.
“The challenge is to communicate these accurate forecasts particularly when there’s so many places affected and the timing and duration for each place will be different.”
By Thursday, news.com.au was reporting that southern capitals were unlikely to have higher rainfall totals. But this fact was not reported everywhere, said Mr Meyers.
“Some articles seemed to have been written with other articles as the sole basis and this ends up in a kind of Chinese whispers scenario where the lines get twisted a bit.”
THIS WEEK’S WEATHER
As for the rest of the week it’s going to be sunny and showery across the board.
Sydney will reach highs of about 20C with showers here and there. Melbourne will have similar highs but with more pronounced rain as the week develops.
The fog plaguing Brisbane will clear with sunny days in the mid-twenties.
Perth will see sun, some showers, and highs of 20c — 23C. A possible storm in Adelaide on Monday will lead to similar conditions to WA but the mercury will be lucky to nudge 20C. Hobart will hover around 15C all week with Darwin, in contrast, lazily lounging around the mid-thirties.