Katherine Flood 2006 - Information & Links

Here you will find links to documents and information developed for this page
on the events leading to the Flooding of Katherine Northern Territory during April 2006 and the aftermath.
Some of the information has been created by myself and is open to interpretation (I have no qualifications in Hydrology or Meteorology), however I have tried to be as factual as possible.

I was not there in Katherine, I was stuck out at home 15 km along  Florina road direction cut off by floodwaters and making flood preparations myself. But I gathered what factual information I could to pass on to the Internet Public in a timely fashion. ie every 5 minutes where possible. Residents of Katherine would email me photos within minutes & hours of the events and these were published on the net.

Lets set the scene.

The 2005-2006 wet season so far had been pretty good. Above average rainfall up until January (in fact we had the yearly average in Oct-Dec 05) but it was a consistent rainfall, not massive downpours & 3 week dry spells (where you still need to water lawns) like in past recent years.
Then an almost record February 06 dry spell with the Katherine River looking like it missed the wet season altogether.

Wet Season 05/06 Oct 2005 Nov Dec Jan 2006 Feb Mar Apr 2006
Rainfall  mm 33 194 393 293 62 (9.8ml max) 455 151 (to 7Apr06)

March got us back into the swing again and we saw the Katherine River rise to 15 Metres as it does nearly every year. The 1800 floodline number was not functioning during this time and should of been a wake up call.

The days before the April 2006 flood was just the usual wet season showers & the river was back on its usual 3-4 metres.

Then we had a small tropical depression form over the Top End which swirled through the region.
We were actually quite lucky as more rain fell around Daly River region and along the coast of the NT during this time.

What happened up in the Katherine River catchment was to me "a fairly insignificant" event in the scope of things. (Yes I know water ended up in people homes) What I am alluding to is that this can happen far more regularly than we all seem to think. (Time will tell)

Information on what the Flood Levels mean in Katherine

Updated web info & flood category maps developed in 2007
These will not make sense with newly created Flood Categories of OCT2009- but are still a good map (if still available over coming months)


the Australian Weather News website has the information that will immerse you into the mood of what was going on in March & April 2006.
- A brilliant site to look back at 1998.....
another project


Offical Katherine Flood info

Nov 2006 Katherine Flood Brochure link (now updated Oct09

Oct 09 Updated Flood Info

Historical Radar Footage

I have Radar images from 04April06 & 05Apr06 showing the rain mass & storms that caused the event. These have been created into a small web movie reduced to 2mb in size.

How much rain fell?

The Katherine River is part of the Daly River Catchment. The Katherine River Catchment (apart from being all the way along the Katherine River) is mainly the area above the Nitmiluk Katherine Gorge  up into Arnhemland (what happens up here is what affects Katherine NT). If it rains a bit more to the Left, it goes over Jim Jim Falls and out to sea, a bit to the right & the Waterhouse River & Roper River is filled up (as it did this time as well). But smack bang in the middle & down it comes along the Katherine River.

On the 3rd of April 2006 Sleisbeck recorded about 50 mm of rain which was quite natural.

On the 4th April 2006, 195.4 mm of rain fell over a 24 hr period, at Mt Felix & 141.6 mm at Yeralba Ridge.

.....Map of Katherine River Catchment showing rainfall data on the 04 April 2006 ....

Normally a dump of this size (195mm) would be registered mainly at one site and bring a bit of panic into town with the water level getting up to 17 metres+, but on this occasion it registered in an area across the catchment, in effect indicating a blanket rainfall and in theory almost doubling what fell (not really an exact method but do you get my drift) . (Maybe it was just that it rained consistently over two of the rain gauges) The radar movie does not really reflect the size of the event (mm rainfall) in images.

See the Daly River Catchment area, that Katherine River is a part of showing Nitmiluk Gorge & Katherine recording stations.

See a zoomable topographic map of the upper Katherine River

Web Movie (2Mb)
Will open a new window so you can keep reading while it downloads

150 image Radar loop movie of days before 2006 flood
Pause movie to read comments

I've had trouble downloading this sometimes & the most foolproof way is to right click & "save as" to your desktop or somewhere on your PC.

Rainfall in Region on 04Apr06




Rainfall 05April06



What next?

Rain gauges & water level recording instruments (telemetered sites) are positioned along the Katherine River Catchment region.
The two most notably ones for Katherine residents are at Nitmiluk just downstream of the Gorge & 17mile creek and at the Katherine River Railway bridge. They beam a near real time signal to Darwin which updates the internet for us to view.

In theory Katherine township has 12 hours warning from the levels that pass through the Nitmiluk gauge. Long term locals use an old rule of thumb with the Nitmiluk Gauge & double the level at the Gorge to give a prediction 12 hrs time for Katherine Town. ie if it is 9 metres at the Gorge, it may get to 18 metres in Katherine. This old method of calculation is flawed....

Here are some stats from Birdie Creek April 2006 to compare with next time

Reality is, it is still all guesswork as rainfall at other times in other parts of the Katherine River can affect "theoretical measurements calculated while standing on one leg facing the wind".

Afternoon Storm on the 5th April 2006

This is what also happened in Katherine, we had a fairly decent storm on the late afternoon on 5th of April 2006, that ripped up along the Katherine River dumping about 50mm of rain at measuring stations (railway bridge). It also fell heavily in the Maud Creek area (Katherine side of the Gorge) and this extra flow into the Katherine River is not taken into account with the Nitmiluk water gauge. Shown in the radar web movie This extra rainfall is a wildcard but I never heard it mentioned.

At this stage the Katherine Bridge reading was 16.5 metres and rising. Roads had been cut earlier at Bullock Creek & 2 mile creek (along Gorge rd) & out along Florina rd at the quarry. I managed to sneak through the Florina Rd quarry crossing when the water level was on 0.4m at 2.00PM. My neighbor made it through in a Toyota 4x4 with a snorkle on darkness, water on the windscreen. Once committed there is no turning back for several hundred metres, you cannot see the actual level until you are in the thick of it.

Predictions & warnings

This extra storm may of attributed to what appeared to be errors of judgment or confusion with forecasting the predicted Katherine River height. I'm not making excuses for anyone here either.

The 12 hour warning sirens rang the next day as many people along Gorge road were already up to their knees in water in their homes. Water was entering homes in other lower parts of Katherine township. People were still sightseeing (Yes I would of had the memory card full if I was in town) and it appeared that some of the "escape " routes were slowly being cut off through town while people were still in Woolies buying what was left (or wishing they had done the shopping 3 days earlier)


Flood Levels
My thoughts and recordings as the hours and days and water came & went by.

Katherine Flood Level Recordings

I have kept everything as it was recorded & stuff that maybe should of been removed, I have not altered.

Unfortunately I was updating my start page with the latest photos & information every 5-10 mins as it came to me and this record was not kept.


My suggestions for next time or before it occurs again.


Flood Photo Sites

Photos submitted to me 1
Photos submitted to me 2
Photos via Rivercam site
Sunday Mail

Katherine River Camera
Comparison images for webcam - river camera

Satellite Images of Katherine River
(Birdie Creek to Florina Rd)

The big Day

It is probably at this point, you have a read of the police notices (in order) and mix it with some news reports with the links on the Right and my records on "Katherine River Water Levels" page. It was a difficult time for consistent and timely information. Easy enough to read now when you can find it.

Problems with 1800 flood information numbers functioning, Katherine Police being inundated with many hundreds of calls and trying to filter them out. Flooding in Beswick Community, roads cut off North & South of Katherine. Flood protocols developed from 1998, not being followed until it was nearly too late (Fuel). It was all happening. I would of sworn too!

What still gets me was the flood committee reference to the KROL website with most of its pages "under construction". I realise that last year they were hit by hackers that wiped the site. At least they had reference to the River Cam & eventually they received Flood Warning updates etc, what's another hundred thousand $.
Hopefully it will be more functional later this year.

Radio Media

Would of been easy for me to pull up the Car next to the house & listen to 101.3FM for the latest reports, however the vehicle was parked up the road as part of our flood preparations. Radio reception out this way from inside the house is a bit non existent. Satellite radio via the TV worked well & ABC Radio did a pretty impressive job, but it is always good to spread the information sources and not be reliant on one lot of people. My reasoning here is that 101.3 Katherine Community Radio has local announcers that have been through it all before and would hopefully not get caught up in all the hype (just a theory). (And not that ABC did.)

Katherine Town Council Debrief

The debrief notes from Council that occurred at the Katherine Town Council at the end of April 06, does allude to some of the difficulties, but is formally written (as it probably should) it is when you mix it with the Stateline script that you can gain a feeling for the mood of many Katherine residents (maybe not a pretty sight).
(I was unfortunately stuck at Adelaide Airport due to Cyclone Monica menacing the Top End Coast)


4 Months on (August 06) & what about the future?? Or do we stick our heads in the sand and shout & yell next wet season when bullock creek cuts the Gorge Road and wish we had done something during the dry season........ and the cycle goes on year after year. We can do things bit by bit as the budget allows.

Late August 06 Flood Committee meeting (will await the results)

September 18th 2006 - Flood Committee meeting well received.(?) Awaiting transcripts/document link.
Sounds like the new Flood Plan puts the onus back on the individuals
September 28th 2006 - Mention in the Katherine Times that very shortly a new raised platform will be pushed up near 2 mile creek to accommodate many vehicles during times of river levels raising. Don't forget there are also high grounds out towards the Gorge (so don't think escape means town direction).

Noel Neil bringing a tour bus through Bullock Creek (The Rocks) a few years ago.



Back to the Katherine Start Page






News of the flood
Police news before
Police News April

Warning Complaints
Claire stands by warning time
ABC Rural News
Council seeking funds
Returning home



Council notes of debrief
Stateline script
Weatherzone forum on flood
Insurance site

Oct2006 ABC

EMA summary (good)



1998 Katherine flood
1998 Katherine Flood Information