As North Queensland gears up for a La Nina this wet season, communities in the Upper Burdekin will now have access to accurate weather updates, with the installation of a new doppler radar at Greenvale, north west of Charters Towers.
Residents in the region have had to rely on weather updates from the Bureau of Meteorology's Townsville weather radar, which some claim has been inaccurate and unreliable in the past.
Following the aftermath of the devastating 2019 north west Queensland floods, the Morrison government committed $77.2 million for a weather monitoring package, including four new weather radars for Queensland.
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Greenvale's radar has been live since November 30, and Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said the radar was the first of four doppler radars promised for Queensland by the Morrison government.
"The new Greenvale radar forms part of the most significant upgrade to the bureau's radar and observation network in a generation," Ms Ley said.
"By June 2024, the Bureau of Meteorology will deliver eight new radars, plus upgrades to 46 radars, nearly 700 automatic weather stations and 200 flood warning network assets across the country."
Radar a "long time coming" for locals
The Greenvale weather radar installation has been a long time coming for communities and graziers in the Upper Burdekin region, after years of relying on the Townsville BOM radar.
Jervoise Organic Meats and Jervoise Station owner Kerry Jonsson operates 30,756 hectares (76,000 acres) of grazing land, 250km north west of Townsville.
Following decades relying on "unreliable" weather updates, Ms Jonsson said construction of a new local radar had been "a long time coming".
"In the past, we've had to look at the Townsville radar to see whether we're going to get any rainfall and it's always been a hit and miss," Ms Jonsson said.
"We often get forgotten up here in the north so it will be nice to have a more accurate indication of how much rain we should get.
"I think everyone in the proximity of the new Greenvale radar will welcome the news, especially when it's fully operational and we'll see how accurate it is over the next couple of weeks."
The Jonsson family property has experienced a wonderful start to the wet season.
"We've had a little bit of rain in October, not a lot, but we also got rain in November is pretty awesome," Ms Jonsson said.
"Usually we don't expect rain till December, but we've had we've had about 80mm since early November.
"It's been wonderful grass rain and now that we've got a bit of a ground cover, when the first heavy rains come, we won't lose our topsoil."
Radar will ensure "timely decisions" are made
Member for Herbert Phillip Thompson said the new Greenvale weather radar will safeguard the lives and livelihoods of residents in the Upper Burdekin region.
"This helps farmers and graziers make timely decisions that are critical for their businesses. It also gives local emergency services a better idea of the conditions being faced across the community," he said.
"Not only do we have the usual summer weather to contend with, but the bureau has also declared a La Nina event in the Pacific Ocean and the new radar will help communities be more informed about forecasts and warnings during the severe weather season."
Greenvale radar to be monitored
Senator Susan McDonald welcomed the news and said it would ensure communities will have access to the weather information they need when it matters most.
"After weeks of testing the Greenvale radar is now ready to go live across Upper Burdekin communities, particularly helping those along parts of the Flinders, Gilbert, Mitchell and Herbert River catchments," Ms McDonald said.
"The bureau's technicians will closely monitor radar performance in the months ahead ensuring that communities have access to radar images."
A BoM spokesperson said the new Greenvale radar will be undergoing tests and evaluation in the next six months until late May 2022 and there may be intermittent outages during this period.
"The Greenvale radar is currently undergoing an evaluation period of 12 months to confirm its coverage is unhindered in all directions," the statement reads.
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