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You are on the 2nd page of the Katherine Flood 1998 Northern Territory information page
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Katherine Flood January 1998

After losing the old link & and search engine reference to anything on the 1998 Katherine Flood in Laurier Williams Australian Weather News (in Feb07) I have taken the liberty to copy & paste some of it here from January 1998. For the whole month's information & more please follow the link to the original fantastic website. (Some of the old data for Jan 1998 is invaluable, like water restrictions in Tasmania in 1998?)  http://australianweathernews.com/news/1998/news9801.html

Saturday 24 January 1998

Cyclone Les forms in the Gulf

A low in the central Gulf of Carpentaria, Qld, deepened to cyclone status late this morning and has been named "Les". By early afternoon, Centre Island in the southwest of the Gulf was reporting heavy rain squalls -- 10.8mm in 10 minutes with gusts to 55 knots at 3PM. By evening, the Cyclone had become a category 2 and was heading west.

Sunday 25 January 1998

Cyclone Les moves inland in NT

Category 2 Tropical Cyclone Les, with estimated winds near the centre gusting to 140 km/h, passed across Groote Eylandt, and crossed the southwestern corner of the Gulf of Carpentaria today before heading into the Territory's Top End. Only light damage was caused on the island, where the main town Alyangula received 147.8mm of rain in the 24 hours to 9AM. By mid afternoon, the cyclone was near Ngukurr, about 70km inland from the Roper River mouth. Torrential rain began falling late in the evening in the area to the west of here, including the headwaters of the Katherine River.

Monday 26 January 1998

Record heat in Brisbane

A most uncomfortably hot and humid night in Brisbane saw the mercury fall only as far as 26.1C at Brisbane Airport this morning. This is the hottest night in 49 years of record at the Airport, where the previous record was 25.9, set in 1983 and equalled in 1987. Humidity remained between 80 and 90% for most of the night, whilst today's temperatures in the Brisbane/Ipswich area rose to 37 to 39C.

Tuesday 27 January 1998

Record floods hit Katherine, NT

What has been described as the worst flooding on record occurred in and around Katherine, NT, from 26 to 29 Jan, and downstream along the Daly River into the middle of February. Torrential rain from the remains of TC Les fell in the headwaters of the Katherine, Roper, Adelaide, Mary, Wildman and South Alligator Rivers as the system moved slowly west.

Falls in the catchments were of the order of 300 to 400mm as the rain depression passed. In the 48 hours to 9AM on the 27th, Eva Valley (about 50km north of Katherine) recorded 431mm, Upper Fergusson (70km ENE of Katherine) recorded 395mm and Tindal (15km SE of Katherine) recorded 386mm. In Katherine at the airport, 362mm fell in the 42 hours to 3AM this morning, with no 9AM report received on the morning of the 27th. The heaviest rain in Katherine, 202mm, fell during the 12 hours to 9am on the 26th, giving a 24 hour total of 220.8mm, the heaviest daily report for January in 24 years of record at the Airport. Katherine's monthly total for January, 913.8mm, comprehensively surpassed the previous January record for any station in the Katherine town area -- 704.6mm at Katherine Council in 1904.

The greatest damage and dislocation occurred in Katherine, the Territory's third largest town, where the river peaked at 20.4 meters at 4.30PM on the 27th, 1.1m higher than the previous worst flood in 1957, and 4.4m above flood level. Between 2,000 and 3,000 of the town's 11,000 residents were estimated to have been evacuated to centres on higher ground as up to three-quarters of the town went under water, with hundreds of homes completely submerged. The main business district was flooded by 1 to 2 meters of water for most of the 27th and 28th, reaching to the ceilings of some businesses. Water at the post office was 3m deep. Waves to half a meter in the main street washed cars away, broke through shop windows, and floated goods out of flooded stores. A crocodile was even spotted by police as it cruised down Katherine Terrace on Wednesday evening. Power, phones, radio and TV were lost during the afternoon or evening of the 27th and gradually restored from mid-morning on the 28th.

A state of emergency was declared on Tuesday morning as police called for private boat owners to help emergency services and 200 defence personnel in rescue operations. Food airlifts using RAAF aircraft began on Wednesday morning, at the same time as there were reports of looting from shops and houses. Five cases of gastro-enteritis were reported late on Wednesday, as authorities issued guidance on preventing health problems.

In an area one to two hundred kilometres surrounding Katherine, heavy flooding cut most roads and caused damage and evacuations. The main north-south Stuart Highway was cut both north and south of Katherine on Monday, with one 20m section swept away 13km north of the town. The Victoria Highway to the west, Katherine Gorge Road to the east, and the Kakadu Highway at Mary River, about 100km north of Katherine, were also cut during the day. Kakadu National Park staff later stated that the flood levels reached at the bridges over the Mary and South Alligator Rivers and Jim Jim Creek were the highest known. The closures of the Stuart and Victoria Highways effectively isolated the Top End, including Darwin, halting the road trains that normally supply perishables and foodstuffs. Helicopters were used to check highways for stranded people, and to make food drops to them and isolated properties and settlements from the 28th.

As floodwaters spread downstream from the area of heaviest rain around and to the north of Katherine, and as the rainband spread further west, a progressively larger area became affected. First to face evacuation were 58 people at Katherine Gorge, who were forced to move to higher ground on Monday night. During Tuesday, 350 people had to be moved to higher ground at the aboriginal community of Beswick, about 90km east of Katherine, as the Waterhouse River broke its banks. Late on Tuesday, 1400 people in Adelaide River township, about 170km NW of Katherine were threatened and some evacuated when the Adelaide River broke its banks and entered the main street. During Wednesday, evacuations were necessary at Mataranka and Elsey Station, around 100km SE of Katherine, as floodwaters entered the upper Roper River. Also on Wednesday, evacuations began in the Daly River settlement of 450 people, 200km downstream from Katherine, with a planeload of people airlifted to Darwin. Highway closures due to flooding had also spread, with the Stuart cut at many places from north of Batchelor (70km from Darwin) to south of Katherine, and the Arnhem Highway was cut at Wildman River. On Thursday, Beswick was without power and drinking water, and the community was evacuated to Barunga, 25km west.

Floodwaters in Katherine had receded sufficiently by the 30th for major clean-up work to commence. Water in Katherine stayed above the 1957 flood level for 53 hours. Downstream at Daly River settlement, the river peaked at 16.5m on 3 Feb, 1.6m above the 1974 flood level, and remained near peak level until 6 Feb with clean-up work not able to be started until mid February. Three people died in the floods, and the total damage bill was estimated soon after the flood to run into tens of millions of dollars in damage to buildings, infrastructure and personal belongings. About 50 fruit and vegetable-growing farms around Katherine, and mango, grain and cattle fattening farms along the Daly River reported damage and stocklosses.

Tiffany and Ex TC Les threaten WA

As the rain-bearing depression that is now the former TC Les heads across the north of NT towards the Kimberley district of WA, TC Tiffany continues to move WSW, parallel to the coast and about 200km out to sea. During the afternoon, it was reported to be a category 4 cyclone, about 200km N of Karratha, moving WSW at 13km/h with a central pressure of about 940hPa. Tiffany is a particularly tight system, with the radius of gales only out to 100 to 130km. Mean windspeed along the coast have been around 60km/h, though North Rankin oil platform, NNW of Karratha, reported sustained winds to 84km/h today.

Cyclone info in Jan 1998 http://australiasevereweather.com/cyclones/1998/summ9801.htm

Rainfall extremes from Laurier Williams website

26 Jan 1998
220.8 Katherine AP NT
220.0 Nitmiluk NT
218.6 Legune NT
205.8 Florina, Daly NT


27 Jan 1998
281.8 Eva Valley NT
256.8 Elizabeth Downs NT
250.0 Hayes Creek NT


Western Australia/Northern Territory

Tropical Cyclone Les 29th Jan to 1st Feb 1998

Tropical Cyclone Les formed in the central Gulf of Carpenteria on the morning of the 24th. Tropical Cyclone Les moved steadily westwards and intensified to Category 2 before passing over the southern half of Groote Eylandt and then over Numbulwar on the southwestern Gulf of Carpenteria coast early on the 25th. Several houses lost their roofs in Numbulwar and power supplies were interrupted on Groote Eylandt during the cyclone.

The cyclone weakened into a tropical low as it moved over the Top End of the Northern Territory, producing 300 to 400 mm of rainfall in the catchments of the Katherine and Upper Roper rivers during the 25th and 26th. Record flooding occurred subsequently in the Katherine region. Having brought flooding rains to parts of the Northern Territory, particularly around the Katherine area, Tropical Cyclone Les moved across the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf to the north of Wyndham in the far North Kimberley on the 29th. Crossing the Kimberley coast again the system moved to the south of Kalumburu as the general track changed from west to southwest during the 30th. The following day Tropical Cyclone Les adopted a southerly track and passed inland just to the east of Broome at around midnight. By the 1st of February the low had degenerated into a rain-bearing depression over the Great Sandy Desert. Gale force winds of 63 km/hr were experienced in exposed Kimberley coastal areas. Early on the 31st Cygnet Bay reported wind gusts to 120 km/hr, and later that morning Kuri Bay experienced wind gusts to 139 km/hr. The lowalso produced heavy rains in parts of the North and West Kimberley with numerous localities receiving daily totals of more than 100 mm. Kuri Bay reported the highest daily amount, 309.6 mm on the 31st.

The Path of LES

The image above

Satellite passes each day by a Japanese Satellite in 1998 (blow by blow images for several weeks)

This is where the Commonwealth pinch all my photos & put them on their website?

BOM info on NT climate education