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Kimberley and NT News: Broome region experiences 3rd cyclone, how will it affect early season trips?
February 22, 2018

22 February 2018, Issue #062

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In this issue:
  • Third Cyclone In The West Kimberley
  • Detailed 2017 Early Season Trip Report
  • Making Itinerary Adjustments
  • Sharing Or Recommending These Newsletters


It's been three weeks since the last newsletter, which reported on the record braking rains and subsequent flooding across the whole north west.

Because the highway remained cut for so long, Woolworths used a barge to get their truck trailers from Port Hedland to Broome, while Coles chartered a plane to restock their shelves with fresh produce. Derby residents had to wait until a truck could get from Broome to Derby, which luckily didn't take long.

Road repairs in the region were hampered by the roads still being saturated and collapsing under the weight of trucks and quarries being inaccessible due to floodwaters.

By last weekend the floodwaters had gone down some but rivers were still up, large parts of the region still under water and many roads were still closed. Roebuck Plains was far from being back to normal (i.e. a plain not an estuary) and there was still water on the Great Northern Highway.

In general, the West Kimberley was still in recovery mode...

Third Cyclone In The West Kimberley

That's when the region experienced its third cyclone for this season, again breaking all sorts of previous rainfall records.

The low pressure trough had started its voyage north of Darwin, initially moving south west and drenching the whole coast on its way. Half way between Broome and Port Hedland it changed direction, now moving east and picking up force. At that point it was upgraded to a cyclone and named "Kelvin".

Cyclone Kelvin crossed the coast as a category 2 cyclone on Sunday, about 250km south of Broome.

My impression is that there has not been as much social media hoopla this time. Everyone had been ready for it, and with this being the fourth severe weather event in a row, I guess people are starting to feel a bit weary. The images from the flooded region have not changed much.

The biggest concern was the damage to the roads. Main Roads had been working hard to protect what was left. (Video from before Kelvin.)

After the cyclone had passed, one of the Logue River floodways (between Broome and Derby) was 850mm under water. The deepest floodway that could be accessed on Roebuck Plains was 644mm and there were deeper ones that Main Roads couldn't get to initially.

That inspection also discovered a big hole in the highway. How? One of the inspectors fell into it. (He didn't get hurt, so it's ok to laugh.)

This is the most impressive photo of the highway I've seen.

The highway did reopen for high clearance vehicles (for essential travel only) on Tuesday morning but water was still over half a metre deep in places. Many other roads are still cut and the isolated communities and cattle stations are receiving air drops of food and supplies.

Roads need to be dry to be fixed properly and those roads won't dry out for a while. It also looks as if there might be more severe weather to come. Another tropical low may soon form and it is likely to affect the Kimberley and north-west again.

Here is an article explaining how the country already being under water can actually contribute to more severe weather events.

So right now everyone is busy cleaning up and fixing things best as they can and getting ready and prepared for possibly another severe event.

At this point I think it is safe to say that what Broome is seeing is nothing like a usual wet season any more. The amount of rain that fell is unprecedented.

Get this: Broome broke its previous ANNUAL rainfall record in only eight weeks. More than twice the yearly average fell in that time. And it appears likely that there is more to come yet so it might be a while before you'll see cars or camels on Cable Beach again.

So now to the million dollar question: Will it affect your early season trip?

Maybe, but not necessarily. Because the rest of the Kimberley has not been affected as dramatically as the Broome region.

Yes, it has been very wet along the Gibb and even more so on the plateau (check out the Mitchell Falls!) and on the coast (1.7m at McGowans near Kalumburu so far!) but hey, it's called the wet season for a reason.

For most of the Kimberley at this stage it's just a good wet season, nothing out of the ordinary.

You can see it well on this BOM map. It shows the rainfall between January 1 and February 18, expressed as percentage of the yearly average rainfall.

The 2017 wet season was also a very good one, and then too the western parts of the Kimberley received the most rain. In 2017 the Mitchell Plateau track opened long before Bell Gorge, Windjana Gorge or Tunnel Creek did. Usually it's the other way round.

We still have to wait and see what this next expected tropical low will do, and if there is more to come after that.

Having said that, at this stage I am not expecting an unusually early or dry start into the season... And I DO expect it to be a great season once it gets under way!

Detailed 2017 Early Season Trip Report

This trip report could not have come at a better time...

Valerie and her friend K visited the Kimberley in May 2017, after the biggest wet season in a long time.

Being self confessed city slickers, they had been following the wet season news reports with trepidation but, as Valerie writes:

"With everything booked and paid for, there was no turning back."

If all this cyclone news is making you nervous about the off road driving and the river crossings, then this trip report is a must read.

Valerie started out rather anxious when she encountered the first creek crossing so deep that it sent water over the bonnet of the car.

Yet two weeks later there she was, nonchalantly advising other tourists on how to tackle deep water crossings and instructing her friend K on how to get out of a black mud bog!

You will also find this trip report interesting if like Valerie you are not much into camping. Valerie writes not only about the attractions, she also reviews all the tented camps and accommodations with photos.

It is the most detailed trip report I ever received.

Enjoy! (And use the link at the bottom of the report to leave a comment for Valerie.)

An Early 2017 Kimberley Adventure - After a Huge Wet Season!

Making Itinerary Adjustments

Having hired a vehicle and staying only in accommodation, Valerie and K had to book everything ahead and fix all their dates.

For many accommodations is has indeed become essential to book early enough as they fill up so quickly.

I have been reminding you about this since November and I have been recommending Bill and Pat from Bluey Travel to help you with it.

Here is an example of what readers say about them:

Hi Birgit,

I have been happy to see your positive comments and recommendations for Bluey Travel! We booked for a month's trip through them and have been very impressed with Pat's help in planning the "perfect" trip for us. They have been amazing in their fast and very accommodating responses to trip planning to our particular needs.
Pat particularly is very good at what she does. It only took us 12  hours and an overnight reply from Pat for us to go from "we'd like to do another Kimberley trip" to going ahead to book!  I usually book all my travel myself but appreciate an experts help in getting this journey organised. 

Kind regards
Irene & Martin

I am glad to hear that everyone is so happy with the service they received.

But what do you do if it then turns out that places are still closed when you get there, as happened to people in early 2017?
Or if unseasonal rain cuts the roads and closes everything, as happened in 2016?

This is the moment when you will be glad that you booked through Bluey Travel rather than arranging things yourself.

You will have access to their mobile phones and they are available to you anytime if you need assistance. If any issues arise during your trip, they will help you.

If needed, they will re-arrange your itinerary, re-book your accommodation and work with the accommodation suppliers to avoid no show fees. Because they have been in the business for so long (since 1999) they have great relationships with all the suppliers and the suppliers work with Bill and Pat to help their customers.

I explain all that and more on the page about their trip planning service.

Regardless if you had an agent book for you or arranged things yourself, regardless if you locked in your dates or are flexible, I want you to keep the following in mind:

You can never catch every place at its best.
You can't have ALL the roads open AND all the waterfalls pumping.
You can't have ALL the creek crossings dry AND all the campgrounds nice and quiet.
You always have to compromise.

Can't get to some places? The places you can get to will be all the more amazing!

The feedback from people who were on the Gibb in May last year is unanimous:
Yes, some places were still closed, but the waterfalls were pumping, the country was lush and beautiful, there were few people around, and there was so much to see and do, it did not spoil their trip in any way.

Sharing Or Recommending These Newsletters

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Thank you to everyone who has been recommending this newsletter to others! Please keep doing so.

Since not everyone may be comfortable to approach me directly and ask to join, you can also send people to this page...

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That way they also get the free pocket guides, which they may find interesting.

Of course, you can also forward these newsletters via email.
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And last but not least, you can also link to the archived version of the newsletter on my website.

The back issues page is here:

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And that's it for today.

I'll leave you with these images of East Pilbara children, still getting to school, despite the floods. :)

Talk again soon!

Destination Kimberley, Destination Top End and Destination Red Centre have all the information you need to put together your dream trip.

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