Highway opens after wet havoc
THE Captain Cook Highway between Port Douglas and Cairns was reopened last night but temporary closures will be in place today.
The Department of Transport and Main Roads last night opened one lane of the highway under traffic control from 6pm until midnight after a landslide at Buchan’s Point dumped tonnes of trees, rocks and debris on the road.
The highway will be closed to all traffic today from 8am until 11am and again from 1pm until 5pm as workers continue to clear the rubble.
A rock the size of a small car and weighing about eight tonnes which fell from a cliff face and landed on the roadway heading towards Cairns on Sunday afternoon was just a hint of the wild weather and road closures that were to follow over the next 72 hours.
Following torrential rain on Sunday afternoon the rock became dislodged and slipped about five metres and plunged down the embankment with a part of the rock landing on the road near Turtle Cove.
Department of Main Roads and Transport workers were called out and closed off the lane and manned the road with traffic management staff to slow the traffic and to guide drivers around the fallen rock during the night amid the teaming rain.
They stayed on duty throughout the night and then in the morning council workers assessed the best way to get rid of the rock - whether to break it up with an excavator fitted with a jack-hammer or blow it up and truck the pieces away.
In the end it was decided the best thing to do was to simply call in a front-end loader to lift the rock across the road and dump it on the ocean side of the highway.
Worse was to come on Monday night with the landslide at Buchan’s Point between Palm Cove and Ellis Beach closing the Captain Cook Highway indefinitely and torrential rain on the Tablelands cutting off the only other route to Cairns due to flooding.
The Mossman-mt Molloy Rd was closed to all traffic until Wednesday morning with up to two metres of water covering the Mulligan Highway at Rifle and Spear Creek and the Bushy Creek and Little Gully causeways also inundated.
While these roadways have now reopened, the waterways are subject to flash flooding and motorists are urged to use extreme caution.
The road closures caused havoc for tourists, local accommodation providers and bus companies as the only way to reach the airport for more than 24 hours was via helicopter transfer.
Exemplar owner Gordon Wellham said it had been a huge logistical effort by local transport companies to transfer their passengers where possible with a minimum of fuss.
Mossman SES Controller Bob Taylor said his crew had a fairly quiet time considering the stormy weather.
“We only to shore up two houses against rising water with sandbags in Cooya Beach and clear away a tree that had fallen in Shannonvale,” Mr Taylor said.
“But our team is in a state of readiness and we have plenty of sandbags ready to be dispatched to people’s homes and business premises if they are threatened by rising water at any time and all they have to is call us to get help.”
Rainfall figures for the past seven days from the Bureau of Meteorology to 9am yesterday showed Low Isles was drenched with 471mm, Mossman was soaked with 318mm, Port Douglas was hit with 241mm, and the Daintree Village had a mere 202mm.
Landslide: near Buchan Point
Rocks on the road: Monday morning, near Turtle Cove
Huge boulder: blocking the road near Turtle Cove
Dangerous driving conditions: Buchan Point