Ex-tropical Cyclone "Esther" replenishes cattle country in Western Australia

Ex-tropical Cyclone

Pastoralists and tourism operators in Western Australia's Kimberley region welcomed soaking rains brought by Ex-tropical Cyclone "Esther" as it provided restoration to cattle stations with huge rainfall totals not seen in portions of the region for years. Plenty of water covered fields, turned a dry creek into a river, and pumped up waterfall attractions again.

The tropical low dumped widespread rains, with as much as 250 mm (8 inches) in parts of the region on Monday, March 2, delighting pastoralists and locals in the area.

"Just awesome to see this. Bring on the rain to feed the dry parched areas. A bit more focus on our pastoralists who have had a terribly dry couple of seasons," one local said.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Angus Moore, the high amount of rainfall across the region was due to the low's unusual slow-moving loop.

"It's sort of done the grand tour of the Kimberley, coming into the north-east and moving out to the west coast before going inland south of Fitzroy Crossing and Halls Creek," Moore stated.

"We've probably seen the highest rainfall total we're going to see out of this system in terms of Kimberley rainfall, but there's a chance some areas in the NT could receive similar amounts to what we've seen in the last 24 hours," he added. Moreover, the system is likely to bring rain to New South Wales' northwest area by the end of this week.

After bringing rains to Top End cattle stations, Esther dumped steady rainwater across farmland and rivers in the Ord Valley.

"There's plenty of water covering fields but it should drain away fine," said Kununurra farmer Christian Bloecker, whose properties received up to 334 mm (13 inches) over 48 hours. "The country around us certainly needed this drink."

"Fantastical. [It was a] great recharge for the Rivers and Creeks and hopefully [there's] not too much road damage," another citizen noted. According to ABC, so far there has been no major flooding despite some roads being closed.

Ord farmer David Menzel, also the Shire of Wyndham and president of East Kimberley, said although there were minor damages on the roads, the Kununurra township was not severely impacted by the downpour.

"It's as close to perfect as you can imagine, and certainly for the surrounding pastoral areas it's really exciting after a tough couple of years."

The landscape along the Gibb River Road was also transformed by the system after a previously dry creek is now running again after Esther.

"It means [we] don't have to worry about where the water is going to come from or if there's going to be fed around," said cattle station owner and tourism operator Larissa White. "It's quite a relief because we weren't sure about water for this year if this didn't occur."

Some popular outback track such as the El Questro and Home Valley Station received up to 300 mm (12 inches) of rain, which pumped up waterfall attractions before the tourism season.

As Esther reached the coast, pastoralists between Derby and Halls Creek welcomed the rain, with some of the highest totals on March 2 recorded at Larrawa Airstrip with 202 mm (8 inches).

James Camp, Kalyeeda Station manager, said his property received about 240 mm (9 inches) of rain, which benefited pastoralists who had suffered one of the driest seasons in 2019.

"The region has been suffering without a good soaking for a while. So hopefully this will mean people will replenish their water stocks."

Up to 230 mm (9 inches) drenched Lake Argyle, which was at its lowest level in 25 years. The level is expected to rise over the following days.

In East Kimberley, downpour from Esther replenished a barramundi breeding habitat, which would make for a good fishing season.

"We always get some sort of a breed, but if you don't get a good wet season, the little tiny barramundi get eaten by everything else," said Greg Harman who operates fishing tours on the Lower Ord.

According to BOM's tropical cyclone outlook issued on Tuesday, March 3, ex-tropical cyclone Esther was located over land near Lajamanu in the district of Tanami, Northern Territory.

The system will continue heading east southeast across central Australia where it will stay over land but has a very low chance of redeveloping into a tropical cyclone.

Featured image credit: Nathaniel Woodland


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