10 May 2023

Residents evacuated as wet weather smashes Cape York

| Sarah Martin
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The McLeod River near Mount Carbine forced a backlog of traffic on the Mulligan Highway.

SCHOOLS closed, almost every road was cut off and some residents were forced to evacuate as heavy rain coincided with king tides to smash Cape York.

The Bureau of Meteorology’s intense rainfall warning proved accurate, with a monsoon trough unleashing more than 100mm in a matter of hours on some parts of the Cape on Thursday and Friday.

Wujal Wujal residents were shocked awake to a valley-wide flood warning siren at 2am on Friday, as the rapidly rising Bloomfield River threatened low-lying homes.

“We had a lot of bleary eyes on Friday, but it was a good reason to get out of bed at 2am,” a Wujal Wujal Aboriginal Shire Council employee said.

“It lets you know you have about 15 minutes to get to higher ground, and for our southside residents to get across the bridge and into the evacuation centre.

“Thankfully, the water went back under the bridge later on Friday.”

Bloomfield State School students were sent home early on Thursday, with nearby Rossville State School closed on Friday, and classes looking empty with school buses cancelled in the Cooktown area due to widespread flooding.

Road travel was held up overnight as the Mulligan Highway was cut by floodwaters at the McLeod River crossing and Little Annan Bridge, with dozens of people, including a contingent of competitors from the Cooktown Amateur Swimming Club, spending an uncomfortable night on Friday sleeping in their vehicles before waters dropped low enough to make the crossing safe in the early hours of Saturday.

Weipa copped plenty of rain throughout the week, with a fierce storm smashing the town on Sunday night, although it was Kowanyama who got most of it, with 138mm recorded in a six-hour window.

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