High­way opens af­ter wet havoc

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - PAUL MIL­TON BUT­LER

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

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