In 2019, a large flooding event swept through Carpentaria Shire, mainly impacting the area between the Norman and Flinders rivers, as well as the towns of Normanton and Karumba. Ten years prior, the 2009 flood event was also a big one for Carpentaria Shire.
Gulf Savannah NRM recently had a chat with Craig Young – who conducted repeated helicopter surveys for the Carpentaria Shire Council to determine the extent of the 2019 floods – and Ashley Gallagher – a multi-generational local, Councillor, business owner and grazier – to hear their stories.
“We had stories circulating of “walls of water” and impending doom for towns. People then have to try and sort out fact from fiction and make plans – and already stressed communities just don’t need that,” says Craig. “The only way to find out what was really going on was to get in a helicopter and go and look. So that’s what we did.”
The 2019 flood was considered unique. It was big and at its peak exceeded historic levels in some localised areas.
“In the end, the towns in Normanton and Karumba fared pretty well in 2019. Later on, we could see on the satellite images the big plume of muddy waters that had gone west. There was also less water than the 2009 floods, but levels did come up much quicker in Normanton,” says Craig.
Ashley Gallagher was living out on Sawtell Creek with his family during the 2009 floods and also had the butcher’s shop in town.
“We knew it was going to be a big flood, but just not how big,” says Ashley.
“The water came up, and Normanton was cut off. Then the old Einasleigh crossing at Georgetown was washed out, and trucks to resupply the town couldn’t get through, and roads up from the Isa were also cut. For quite a while they had to fly supplies into town. The water was up for a very long time, about 8 weeks and the country was devastated.”
However Ashley did report something positive that came out of the 2009 event. “One benefit when the old Einasleigh crossing washed out was a new bridge was built which is a big improvement – every cloud has a silver lining.”
Read the full retrospectives from Craig and Ashley in our latest edition of the Gulf Croaker.