Heavy rains of up to 225mm (9”) have caused flooding in the town of Kununurra in the northeast of Western Australia, with similar rainfall figures forecast over the next 24 hours.
The Department of Emergency Services says crews are assisting residents in both Kununurra and Wyndham in the East Kimberley, where several trees have fallen on houses, and some yards have been flooded.
Floodwaters of up to a metre (39”) deep are threatening houses in Kununurra and placing stress on the town’s sewerage system, with emergency services on standby as more rain is expected.
Peter McAlistair from the Water Corporation says that residents can continue to use the sewerage system for the time being.
“Water is finding its way into the sewerage system and making the sewerage system clogged… So we’re having to divert some water into the irrigation channel which we’re chlorinating, and given the volume of stormwater, it’s very diluted,” McAlister told reporters.
McAlister added that the Water Corporation is taking unprecedented action to avoid flooding around Lake Argyle, by opening the gates on the Kununurra Diversion Dam to a greater extent than any time since they were installed with the building of the Ord Dam.
The community has been advised to stay out of floodwaters and parents have been warned to keep children away from fast-flowing drains for safety reasons.
The Victoria Highway between the Northern Territory border and Kununurra has been closed. Lana Powell of Main Roads says some of the flood ways are up to 600m (656 yards) wide and 900mm (3ft) deep.
Flights have been diverted away from the Kununurra airport.
Senior Forecaster, Neil Bennett, said a cyclone could form early next week if the low travels back over the sea and has advised residents to prepare their cyclone survival kits.
“As it drifts slowly westwards, and I stress the words slowly, if it pops out over open water, it is not going to take very long for that thing to really start to intensify and we’ll start to see gale force winds all the way around it”, he said.
A flood warning remains in place for the Fitzroy River and Ord River catchments.