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Record floods, widespread damage as ex-Tropical Cyclone “Ellie” drops heavy rains over northern Western Australia

ex-tropical cyclone ellie january 2 2023 aqua modis f

Remnants of Tropical Cyclone “Ellie” have dropped heavy rains over parts of northern Western Australia over the past week, causing record floods and widespread damage.

On January 3, ex-Tropical Cyclone “Ellie” was located between Broome and Fitzroy Crossing, Western Australia, and is expected to slowly track west to be centered just east of Broome by Wednesday morning, January 4 (LT).1

Heavy rainfall is likely to impact Broome, Roebuck Plains and the Dampier Peninsular from Tuesday, January 3 to Thursday, January 5, and gale-force winds are possible.

Daily rainfall amounts of 100 – 200 mm (3.9 – 7.9 inches) with isolated falls of 250 mm (9.8 inches) and very isolated falls of 300 mm (11.8 inches) are possible.

Over the past week, very high rainfall totals of 250 – 500 mm (9.8 – 19.7 inches) have been observed in northern Western Australia associated with Ellie, including 823 mm (32.4 inches) at Diamond Gorge, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) reports.

The Fitzroy River at Fitzroy Crossing was at 15.29 m (50.2 feet) and rising at midday local time on Tuesday, exceeding the previous record in 2002 of 13.95 m (45.8 feet). Further rises are possible as upstream floodwaters arrive, and the Fitzroy River at Fitzroy Crossing may reach around 15.60 m (51.2 feet) later Tuesday.

Floodwater has triggered the need for multiple evacuations, relocation of community members and transit to high ground or Broome.

Flooding downstream is expected to exceed 2002 levels at Noonkanbah, Looma and Willare, BOM said.

This flooding is impacting road conditions in the Fitzroy River catchment.

Many roads are impassable, and most communities are now isolated.

Shire of Derby-West Kimberley President Geoff Haerewa said damage from the floods could impact communities for months to come.2

“We can’t confirm how much damage there has been to the Fitzroy Bridge until the water goes down but the consequences of (the bridge collapsing) would be catastrophic for Fitzroy Crossing,” he said.

“If that bridge goes down there’s no way we could just rely on road access from Perth, there are just too many communities further north of Fitzroy Crossing that would need help with food, fuel, medical supplies, and shelter.”

“If that bridge is taken away, we will call on the State and Federal Governments to get military assistance to keep that road open once the water has gone down.”

References:

1 Ex-Tropical Cyclone Ellie continues to produce heavy rainfall, flooding and strong winds across the Kimberley – BOM – January 3, 2023

2 Record floods cut-off North West towns as ex-Tropical Cyclone Ellie continues destruction – PerthNow – January 3, 2023

Featured image: Ex-Tropical Cyclone “Ellie” on January 2, 2023. Credit: NASA Aqua/MODIS

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