Flooded highway reopens
Monday, 24th January, 2011
By Andrew Robertson
Six days after flood water closed it to traffic, motorists were allowed back on the Barrier Highway between Broken Hill and Wilcannia yesterday morning, albeit at a reduced speed.
The Roads and Traffic Authority re-opened the 200km stretch of highway to traffic at 11.30am but with a 40km/h speed restriction on drivers.
The road was closed on Tuesday morning last week after a one kilometre expanse of water, up to a metre deep or more in places, covered the highway about 24 kilometres west of Wilcannia.
Since then all traffic has been diverted south at Broken Hill and Cobar through Buronga, Hay and Hillston in the State's south.
The general manager of the Central Darling Shire Council, Tim Hazel, said it was the first time in living memory the road had been closed due to flooding, which was due to run-off after 187mm of rain fell in the area.
Two excavators were brought in to carve a channel in the naturally formed dam, which Mr Hazel on Wednesday estimated could keep the road closed for at least a week.
Police said yesterday that in the last two days they had received dozens of phone calls from people wanting to know the condition of the road.
"Most people are showing common sense and making enquiries first," Senior Sergeant Mark Fisher said.
But not all motorists were complying with road closures. Sen Sgt Fisher said police went to the rescue of one stranded motorist on Saturday night only to become bogged themselves.
He said the South Australian woman was travelling towards Broken Hill and had driven through Wilcannia when she was stopped by the flood water.
Sen Sgt Fisher said after walking into the water to test its depth, the woman turned back to Wilcannia before taking an unsealed road to Menindee, ignoring the closed road sign.
She got 10km down the road before encountering more water but, when she tried to turn the Kia Rio hatchback around, the vehicle became bogged.
Wilcannia police responded to the woman's triple zero call and a crew was dispatched about 6pm, according to Sen Sgt Fisher.
But they too became bogged in the mud, and a second crew from the station was sent, who managed to get the first police vehicle out but not the woman's car.
The woman, who was taken back to Wilcannia, was told she would be getting an infringement notice for driving on a closed road.
Sen Sgt Fisher said the incident should serve as a warning to drivers.
"Police are reminding motorists to check road conditions and not drive through on these roads while (closed) signs are up, or if they do, don't expect to then be rescued in a hurry."
The Silver City Highway to Tibooburra has also been opened to traffic.