"I have never seen anything like this", Townsville resident Chris Brookehouse told national broadcaster ABC, adding that his house was flooded with water more than 1m deep.
The weather was atrocious overnight, with two police engaged in evacuation work rescued themselves after fast rising flood waters trapped them and washed away their patrol vehicle.
Floodwaters threatened to submerge up to 20,000 homes in Townsville, which has a population of about 175,000, officials said. "We still have many roads that are cut around those areas".
"The possibility of wind gusts also insists with the onshore flow. and there is some chance of tornadoes forming in that onshore flow as the convergence lines feed into the monsoonal low cross the coast, there's enough favourable wind sheer to make that possible".
Swiftwater rescue crews were operating through the night as water levels continued to rise.
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The Bureau said there had been "extremely heavy falls" since 9am yesterday, with 506mm recorded at Ingham Pump Station, 415mm at Halifax, 309mm at Cardwell Gap and 271mm at South Mission Beach.
"Even though there have been plenty of warnings, the floodwaters have still taken many by surprise".
The floodgates of the city's dam were opened earlier to prevent the Ross River from breaking its banks, flooding some suburbs.
Around 400 Townsville residents have sought shelter at nearby Lavarak military barracks.
With water levels at waist and chest height in some suburban streets, local police chief and District Disaster Coordinator Steve Munro said the crisis was only half over. "Flash flooding from Dam".
Locals are being advised to move to higher ground as the flood continues.
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Watch incredible footage of the dam being opened in the video above.
"It is basically not just a one in 20-year event, it is a one in 100-year event", she told reporters Saturday.
"In addition, we are extending the assistance measures available to targeted areas in Cook Shire Council, Douglas Shire Council and Townsville City Council to include personal hardship assistance and the reconnection of essential services".
Authorities say that would potentially cause rapid flooding across the city.
In hardest-hit Rosslea, Megan Simmonds, 26, has been helping neighbours carry out their belongings from devastated homes where many are already under 2m of water.
Queensland state Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said that it had been a "really testing night for a lot of people", and unfortunately the strain was likely to continue with extreme weather and flood warnings still in place for many communities.
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