Century’s Largest Flood Hits Far North Queensland

A massive flood, triggered by the remnants of Tropical Cyclone Jasper, has struck Australia’s Far North Queensland (FNQ), marking the largest flood in over a century. Jasper, making landfall on December 13, 2023, left a trail of devastation with unprecedented rainfall.

Record Rainfall and Widespread Flooding

In the aftermath of Cyclone Jasper, two rain gauges recorded a staggering 660 millimeters (26 inches) of rain within a 12-hour period, tentatively surpassing the previous state record set in 1972. The relentless rain resulted in widespread major flooding along the FNQ coast. Notably, the Barron River at Myola experienced its highest flood levels in more than a century, while the Daintree River surpassed major record flooding levels, reaching 15 meters—surpassing the 2019 record of 12.6 meters.

Water Treatment Plants Offline

The ongoing flooding has taken a toll on Cairns Regional Council’s treatment plants, causing a major blockage at the Crystal Cascades intake. This has disrupted water treatment at the Tunnel Hill plant in Cairns, leading to a depletion of treated water supplies in reservoirs. Cairns Mayor Terry James declared a critical level in the city’s water supply, with some suburbs potentially facing water shortages due to damaged infrastructure.

Urgent Water Conservation Measures

Cairns residents are urged to conserve water as much as possible. With damaged infrastructure affecting the water supply, residents are advised to use water only for emergency purposes such as drinking, food preparation, personal hygiene, and medical needs. Despite ongoing efforts to restore the water supply, the situation remains challenging.

Understanding the Deluge: Unusual Weather Patterns

The occurrence of a tropical cyclone in early December is rare in northern Australia, especially during El Nino years. Currently in the grip of an El Nino climate pattern, as declared by the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) in September 2023, Australia is witnessing an unusual weather phenomenon. Laura Boekel, a senior meteorologist with BOM, highlighted that this is the first time since the 1970s that a tropical cyclone has arrived so early in the season during an El Nino year.

Unpredictable Cyclone Jasper

Cyclone Jasper, initially expected to move into the Gulf of Carpentaria, stalled inland from the southeast Gulf, creating a stationary convergence zone conducive to torrential rain. Weather models had indicated the cyclone’s movement, but the extreme and prolonged rainfall forecast had a short lead time. The early warning system, despite alerting about the Category Two system near Port Douglas, faced challenges in predicting the extent of the extreme weather event.



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