Roads have turned into rivers, cows are struggling to survive in fast flowing waters and boats have become the only form of transport in parts of the central Kimberley as ex-Tropical Cyclone Ellie continues to batter Northern Australia.
The extreme weather system is hovering across central Kimberley between Fitzroy Crossing and Halls Creek bringing major flooding to the region, with more than 350 millimetres of rain recorded at Dimond Gorge in the Fitzroy River catchment on Monday.
The Bureau of Meteorology has issued almost a dozen severe weather warnings for the Northern Territory and Western Australia over the past week as torrential rain fell and damaging winds reached gusts of around 100 kilometers per hour.
At Fitzroy Crossing, a small town 400km east of Broome, a major flood warning is in place, with the river expected to exceed the major flood level of 12.5 metres on Monday afternoon.
Natalie Davey, whose home is around 50m from the banks of the river, said locals had been preparing for the floodwaters to rise for days, and it was beginning to close in on her doorstep.
“It’s extraordinary, I’ve never seen it it this height before,” she said, adding that the town had been cut off on both sides and the road was impassable to anyone without a boat.
“We’ve worked out different places in the house where we can get higher – we do have a ladder on the verandah to get on the roof and if need be we have family who have boats.
“Everybody’s filling up on drinking water in case the water rises because our pumps will have to be turned off and maybe the electricity at some point.”
Ex-Tropical Cyclone Ellie continues to meander across the north
Rebecca Parker a senior metrologist at the BOM says ex-Tropical Cyclone Ellie is expected to move slowly westward over the next 24 hours, warning heavy rainfall could trigger flash flooding.
The system is expected to reach east of Broome on Tuesday evening before turning around and making its way back to the interior of Western Australia.
She said there was even a chance it could cross back into the Northern Territory and head towards central Australia.
“It certainly has been quite a prolonged event, Ellie made landfall just before Christmas and has been traipsing around the Northern Territory and now the Kimberley,” she said.
Across the Northern Territory, dozens of remote communities have become isolated by floodwater, prompting concerns about food security in places like Yarralin.
Nauiyu elder Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann said her community, which sits on the banks of the Daly River, is in jeopardy of becoming an island.
“We’re getting to a point where we have got to be ready to be evacuated … we’re doing our best to let everyone know to get ready and put things up higher,” she said.
In the Top End, the “vigorous” monsoon is expected to remain in place over the Timor Sea until Tuesday, bringing with it a risk of damaging wind gusts to the western Top End and the north coast.
On Monday, the Bureau issued a severe weather warning for damaging surf – but the wild weather has not kept adventure seekers out of the swell at Nightcliff, where the usually calm ocean has turned into a surfer’s paradise.
Lachlan, from New South Wales was one of more than a dozen surfers braving the waves on Monday afternoon.
“It was tough and heaps windy, but I s’pose you only get to do it a couple of times so you may as well get out there,” he said.
River report: (230102) 06:00
— Natalie Davey (@Nat_Davey) January 1, 2023
Top End monsoon strengthened by weather system
Ms Parker says the monsoon, whipping up wild weather in the Top End, has been amplified by the ex-tropical cyclone, and has created a “bumper wet season so far”.
The system is bringing above average rain totals to parts of the territory that desperately needed it following a succession of poor wet seasons.
“We did see the monsoon onset about a week earlier than average,” she said.
“Darwin airport received double the amount of rain we would typically see by this time of year.
“We certainly are [seeing rainfall records that are] above average for December and above average for the wet season so far.”
She said the monsoon is likely to stick around until the end of the week. [ABC]