Highway under water
Thursday, 20th January, 2011
By Gina Wilson
The Barrier Highway is likely to be closed for at least a week after flood waters cut the bitumen road for the first time "in living memory".
Earth moving equipment from the city was now on site and traffic was being diverted around the Wilcannia to Broken Hill stretch of highway which is now being blocked by a one kilometre expanse of water that in some places is more than one metre high and still rising.
The general manager of the Central Darling Shire Council, Tim Hazell, said yesterday the road was cut about 24 kilometres west of Wilcannia and was set to stay that way for days.
"Not in living memory (has this happened)," Mr Hazell said.
"Current estimates are that the road will be closed for at least a week. I'd like to say it would be shorter but that's what the RTA people on the ground are telling us.
"This morning (the water) was at the top of one of the guide posts. That guide post can no longer be seen."
Mr Hazell said the water was collecting on a part of the road that had not before been flooded.
"That is the strange thing. But it's formed a natural dam/tank."
He said it appeared the water was a run off from 187 millimetres of rain which fell in the Grassmere Creek catchment last week.
One excavator reached the site of the flood waters about 3pm yesterday while a second was due to arrive later.
Mr Hazell said he expected the excavators to work until dark enlarging a channel that was dug on Tuesday.
"(We want to) see if we can dissipate the water by deepening and widening the channel."
Mr Hazell said despite the road being closed, traffic queues were not forming at the site.
"Signs at Cobar and Broken Hill seem to be working."
Traffic was being diverted to Broken Hill via Cobar to Hillston, Hay, Mildura and Wentworth, he said.
Meanwhile the Shire Council has applied for natural disaster funding after heavy rain washed out parts of the Wilcannia to White Cliffs road.
Early estimates are that it could cost around $1 million to repair the road that is now closed.
"Very preliminary estimates are $1m but it could be anything really," Mr Hazell said.
The road was badly damaged last year also with repairs only being finished recently.
Mr Hazell said this year's damage was in "similar sorts of spots (but) it's not damaged to the same level."
He said there could well be more damage on other roads, which remain inaccessible.
"That's of obvious concern," he said.
"It's all relevant though. It's nothing compared to Queensland or Victoria but it does effect our little part of the world."