In the wake of the devastating flooding in Queensland's north-west, concerns have surfaced about radar 'black spots' between Mount Isa and Townsville — cities some 950 kilometres apart.
The Bureau of Meteorology is being urged to improve the situation, which locals say seriously impacted their ability to prepare for the once-in-a-century rain.
Mt Isa and Townsville both have doppler radar towers, but there are none in between, meaning residents in some areas have no way to monitor the weather in real time, and are sometimes forced to guess what may be coming based on conditions hundreds of kilometres away.
According to Dave Fox, who has been helping coordinate the disaster relief plan for Richmond Shire — about halfway between the two cities — the lack of doppler radar poses an unacceptable risk.
"I don't think anyone could have imagined in their wildest dreams what we were going to be faced with … neither did the weather department," the Fox Helicopter Services owner said.
"How is a producer supposed to monitor what might be coming when there's no weather radar between Mount Isa and Townsville?
"We are in a total weather radar vacuum here.
"Anywhere east of Julia Creek and west of Prairie has no reference to any colour chart at all.
"So to say that a producer should have been prepared beyond the preparation that we had, is I think unfair."
BOM 'doesn't rely on single system'
The BOM said it uses a "number of systems" to generate warnings — not just the dopplers.
"[The Bureau of Meteorology] does not rely on a single system," a spokesperson said.
"This allows the Bureau to produce forecasts and warnings in areas where there is little or no radar coverage."
In response to criticism about the Mount Isa BOM office closing, the spokesperson said the office was not closed, but automated.
"In 2016 the Bureau of Meteorology automated its remote weather station at Mount Isa," the spokesperson said.
"The automation of the Mount Isa weather station has allowed for an increase in the quantity, quality, and availability of weather observations, improving both the forecasting and warning services provided to the community."
Deputy PM responds to calls
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said the government will look into the issue.
Mr McCormack told the ABC the government will be bringing a "package" of measures to the flood affected region.
"I think when you've got a black spot there involving Richmond, Hughenden, and Georgetown … they need to know forecasting, even in good times, but certainly during bad times," he said.
"We're certainly going to look at that as part of what we do going forward.
"We need to make sure we have the best available data for these people."
Radar down during flooding
Flinders Shire Mayor Jane McNamara said alongside the issues in the north-west, Winton was faced with another when the Longreach radar was down for the entire weather event.
"We need to really be thinking about the future of this area," she said.
"We need to be thinking … about the weather radar in this area — it's very, very important that this area comes into the twenty-first century.
"None of that massive rain was actually being [recorded] and of course we had no radar, because the Longreach radar was down for the whole of that event.
"We couldn't actually tell our people downstream of how much water was coming their way, because we didn't have any way to actually monitor that."ABC