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Torrential downpours, raging rivers and blocked roads: Alice Springs' wettest November on record

Friday November 12, 2021 - 23:59 AEDT
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Alice Springs experienced its wettest 24-hour period since 2001. - ABC

Almost 200 millimetres of rain has fallen on Alice Springs in the first 12 days of November, breaking all records for the month. 

The Bureau of Meteorology said the previous highest rainfall for November in Alice Springs was 156mm in 2008. 

Most of the rain this week fell during a single day. 

Alice Springs received more than 100mm during the 24 hours from nine o'clock on Tuesday morning, with most of the deluge occurring between 5am and 7am on Wednesday. 

It was the town's highest daily rainfall reading since 2001. 

The usually bone-dry Todd River reached 2.9 metres by Wednesday morning, which was below the March 1988 record of almost four metres. 

With causeways closed and traffic at a standstill, residents were encouraged to take the day off or work from home. 

But many came out to enjoy the rare spectacle of water gushing down the river, breaking the banks and spilling into the town. 

Widespread falls across the region

Heavy rains were widespread across southern parts of the Territory, with strong flows in the Hugh and Finke rivers and record-breaking falls in the West MacDonnell Ranges. 

Ormiston Gorge has received 210mm since the start of the month, surpassing the previous mark of 138mm in 1977.

"This is an incursion of that tropical moisture ? what we normally experience in the Top End is what worked its way down into Central Australia over the last week or so," BOM forecaster Sally Cutter said. 

"This is unusual ... we've had considerably larger totals than previous records for the month and it's only taken the first 12 days of the month to get there." 

The message from emergency services has been clear: If it's flooded, forget it.

"If you're unsure, don't make a silly choice," Acting Assistant Commissioner for regional and remote policing Craig Laidler said. 

Traffic at a standstill

Commutes through the Alice Springs town centre that would normally take a maximum of 10 minutes were pushed out to more than an hour on Wednesday morning as roads were closed due to flooding.

The major highway north of Alice Springs was also closed, blocking access to the town and delaying freight deliveries to the Top End. 

In one incident, a man was rescued from the Todd after clinging to a tree for six-and-a-half hours after his car was swept off the Wills Terrace causeway.

Roads within town and the Stuart Highway were cleared by Friday morning.  

Wettest day washing away

The Todd River level fell quickly on Wednesday and was reduced to puddles by the end of the week. 

The BOM says it is unlikely the Todd will flow again this month. 

"We do have another trough moving through next weekend, but while it may bring some showers and storms to the southern parts of the NT, it looks like the focus is going to be over SA."

But Ms Cutter said it would only take another big storm to see the raging rapids return. 

"All the catchments are now saturated, so anything that does fall is going to run off. 

"You only need another big storm in the appropriate location to get the river to respond."  


© ABC 2021

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