Victoria's north-east has been hit hard by torrential rain and flash flooding as intense storms sweep across the state, delivering up to a month's worth of rain in a single day and stranding cars on a major freeway.
- A flood warning is in place for the Wangaratta area, including the Hume Freeway
- There have been reports of flash flooding at some intersections in Melbourne
- A severe weather warning for heavy rainfall is in place for much of the state
A low-pressure system across Victoria has created a deluge which is expected to bring increasing rain throughout the afternoon.
In Queensland, destructive winds, flooding and wild weather is expected to batter the state as Tropical Cyclone Owen intensifies into a category-three system.
At least 100 cars have been caught in flash flooding on the Hume Freeway north of Wangaratta, in north-eastern Victoria, when they were caught out by heavy rainfall.
Victoria's Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said 17 people have had to be rescued by helicopter from the Hume near Wangaratta.
"What we've seen today, some people have made some foolish decisions because what we've finished up with is about 100 people that have been trapped on the Hume Highway in their vehicles and on their vehicles," he said.
Mr Crisp said the helicopter rescues would be expensive.
"It's thousands and thousands of dollars that have been committed to these rescues that have happened today and again, that's why we have those services, that's why we have those specialists, but let's save them for what they're actually really needed to do," he said.
With more rain forecast, Mr Crisp urged people not to walk or drive in floodwaters.
"We know we're not out of the woods yet.
"There's still more rain to come across the north-east and we know potentially we'll see more rain tomorrow," Mr Crisp said.
"I've never seen anything like this before," said talkback caller Denis, speaking to ABC Radio Goulburn Murray.
"The southbound [side of the freeway] is high enough so that's clear but [on the] northbound [side], they're turning off people at the Rutherglen Rd from Wangaratta.
"I can actually see peaks of blue sky above Wangaratta."
Denis said some people climbed out onto the roofs of their vehicles until they could be rescued.
Several people left stranded by the floodwaters were taken to safety in a high-rail vehicle on train tracks.
They included a pregnant woman and a couple with an infant in a carry-cot.
The vehicle was high enough off the ground to clear the floodwaters on the train tracks.
The State Emergency Service (SES) said it had received more than 400 calls for help.
Relief centres have opened in Wangaratta, Chiltern and Wodonga for people affected by flooding.
SES chief officer Tim Wiebusch joined Mr Crisp in pleading with motorists to steer clear of floodwaters.
"We're responding to people who have driven into floodwaters yet again," Mr Wiebusch said.
He said the Hume Freeway is likely to be affected by flooding for the next 48 hours.
But he said many other local roads in the north-east had been cut off by floodwaters.
"We're advising people to be aware of your conditions, drive to the conditions and don't attempt to drive through flash floodwaters," he said.
More rain on the way
Everton, 20 kilometres south-east of Wangaratta, received the day's highest rainfall total of 165 millimetres.
Carboor Upper, south of Wangaratta, received 125 millimetres.
Eldorado, east of Wangaratta, received 110 millimetres and 84 millimetres fell at Mount Buffalo.
The BOM said another area of heavy rain will develop during Friday morning.
Areas that may be affected include Mildura, Horsham, Warrnambool, Bendigo, Shepparton, Seymour, Maryborough, Ballarat, Geelong, Melbourne, Wodonga, Wangaratta, Traralgon and Bairnsdale.
Emergency services have issued a flood warning for Wangaratta, Byawatha, Peechelba, Markwood, Everton, Carboor, Moyhu and surrounding areas including the Hume Freeway.
The warning said that heavy rainfall was causing localised flash flooding, and urged people to immediately move indoors away from floodwaters.
Melbourne has also received plenty of rain, with 48 millimetres recorded at Sandringham in the city's south, 47 millimetres at Keilor in the north-west and 33 millimetres in the city.
The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) says there may be more showers on the way later this afternoon but the heaviest rain has passed.
Intense rainfall and flooding was also reported at a number of other sites across Melbourne including Montague Street in South Melbourne, Victoria Street at Footscray, and Maribyrnong Road.
There is also a road weather alert in place for Melbourne and the suburbs warning motorists of dangerous driving conditions.
Emergency crews brought in chainsaws to remove a fallen tree affecting inbound traffic on King St in the city this morning.
A severe weather warning has been issued for the rainfall, which could lead to flash flooding across regional Victoria, including at Horsham, Shepparton, Seymour, Ballarat, Geelong, Wodonga and Wangaratta.
The BOM said the low-pressure trough was almost stationary over central Victoria and is likely to deepen into a low pressure system over central parts of the state before moving north-west later tonight.
There are also initial flood warnings for metropolitan Melbourne and for the Goulburn and Barwon rivers and parts of West Gippsland.
Earlier, BOM forecaster Dean Stewart said parts of Melbourne could get between 15 and 50 millimetres of rain.
"It really depends on how many storms happen … but some intense rainfall [is] expected that's likely to lead to some localised flash flooding around parts of Melbourne," he said.
There has already been some storm activity and heavy downpours in the state's west and north, and the Strathbogie Ranges in the north-east has received 20 millimetres of rain in 20 minutes overnight.
The SES this morning warned Victorians not to drive through flood waters, as a series of storm systems move across the state.
Laura De Wildt from the SES said people should take care on their drive to and from work.
"Drive to conditions. If the road's flooded, you just don't know what's under the water so turn around, find another route," she said.