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Severe storm in Darwin brings down powerlines, trees, as cars rescued from floods

Monday January 29, 2018 - 22:35 EDT
ABC licensed image
Storms in Darwin also brought down power lines in Stuart Park on Monday January 29, 2018. - ABC licensed

Darwin was battered by a severe thunderstorm overnight, with "destructive cells" toppling trees and bringing down powerlines across the city, and sending rainfall records tumbling.



And the entire community of Daly River will be evacuated on Monday night as the Bureau of Meteorology issued a major flood warning for the area.

More than 4,500 properties were left without power, including parts of Darwin city, Parap, Stuart Park, Woolner and surrounds.

Significant outages were reported in Fannie Bay (1500), Virginia (1200), Howard Springs (950), Noonamah (900) and McMinns Lagoon due to fallen trees and flooding.

Power has since been restored at the affected properties, but the Northern Territory Power and Water Corporation has warned of "power interruptions" across Fannie Bay, Parap, The Narrows, Woolner, Channel Island, Weddell and Wickham due to continued severe weather.



Northern Territory police, fire and emergency services were called to more than 30 reports of fallen trees blocking roadways across the greater Darwin area.

"In addition to that there were six reports we received of power lines being down," Duty Superintendent Rob Farmer told ABC Darwin.

"That was at McMinns Lagoon out at Noonamah, Howard Springs, two areas at Stuart Park and also at Coolalinga, so that was a pretty wild and woolly storm that came through yesterday."

McMinn Street in Darwin city was closed between Gardiner Street and Foelsche Street on Monday, after trees fell across the roadway.

Bureau of Meteorology duty forecaster Angeline Prasad said the "destructive cells" were felt across parts of the region.

"It's been raining for more than a week, the ground is very soggy," she said.

"With these destructive cells it was strong enough to topple trees."

The three-day total rainfall at Humpty Doo over the long weekend was 460mm, which was higher than the average yearly rainfall in Adelaide.



The active monsoon has seen rainfall records tumble, with Noonamah and Middle Point experiencing their highest daily falls ever recorded.

Wind gusts have been recorded in excess of 100 kilometres per hour.

"A lot of locations have seen their wettest January on record, and Darwin was sitting close to average or below average before this event but is now well above the January average for rainfall totals," meteorologist Laura Boekel said.

"We have been issuing severe weather warnings for damaging winds… between 90 kilometres an hour and 125 kilometres per hour.

"That is the same wind speed we would see in a category-1 tropical cyclone."

Drivers ignoring floodwater warnings



Seven vehicles were after attempting to drive through flooded causeways across the territory.

It has once again prompted warnings from PFES.



"We just urge everybody to please exercise care when you're driving in areas affected by heavy rainfall," Duty Superintendent Farmer said.

"You may recall in previous wet seasons we've had a number of drownings when cars have been washed away in this manner, so think seriously before driving over a flooded causeway.

"You're putting your lives, your passengers lives at risk, and also risking the lives of those who have to come and rescue you."

Heavy rainfall has been reported at Berry Creek, about 60 kilometres south-west of Darwin, where some teachers, students and commuters were left stranded by flooded roadways.

The creek level is subsiding at about 400 millimetres, but with cars banked up on both sides, many turned back and took the day off work.

Berry Springs school was running as normal but teachers advised parents to have a plan in case water levels rose at pick-up time.

Motorists on the Arnhem Highway near Adelaide River also reported "impassable" conditions.

Daly River braces for flooding, evacuation

Meanwhile, a major flood warning was issued for the Daly River on Monday evening.



"The Daly River Emergency Plan has been active since last Friday, and the community has been on stand-by for an evacuation," Assistant Police Commissioner Matthew Hollamby said.

"Given the current advice from the Bureau of Meteorology that the Daly River will reach major flood levels tomorrow, the decision has been made to immediately evacuate the Daly River community.

"The Local Emergency Management Committee has met and have begun the job of implementing the evacuation plan and informing residents.

"The evacuation will begin tonight."

There are approximately 380 people remaining in the community, as some have already left, who will be flown by helicopter and then taken by bus to shelter in Darwin.

"The river level is likely to reach around 13.5 metres on Tuesday morning," Ms Prasad said.

Fibre to be run by helicopter across trees to reconnect communities



The BOM expects up to 100mm of rain to fall across the western Top End over the next two days.

"The Daly River system is a huge river system; it takes days for the flooding to reach the lower levels of the river system," Ms Prasad said.

"It all depends on whether it's 50mm or 100mm and it's a bit hard to say where the heavier fall will be at this stage."



Authorities had been hindered by outages affecting mobile phones, landlines, internet services and ATMs in Daly River, Wadeye, Peppimenarti and Palumpa, along with the Tiwi Islands communities of Milikapiti, Pularumpi and Wurrumiyanga, after services were damaged by the monsoonal weather.

With assistance from police, Telstra has restored its 3G services in Daly River using a portable mobile service.

However, services remained out in Wadeye, Peppimenarti and Palumpa due to a fibre break about 6km from Daly River.

"The worst part of it is it's under water, so it took a while for our guys to find it," said Nic Dank, Telstra's NT general manager.

"We can access the fibre from the Daly River side but we can't reach it from the other side, so we're going to have to use the helicopter probably and run fibre across trees or across the top to re-connect those communities."

Mr Dank said technicians would be sent in to repair the break when the water subsided.


- ABC

© ABC 2018

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