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Floods have Winton surrounded, but at least the pub's stocked up

By Lily Nothling and staff, Wednesday March 7, 2018 - 13:36 EDT
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This Mount Isa petrol station ran out of diesel supplies after floods cut major transit roads - ABC

As heavy rainfall begins to ease around Queensland's north, from the air the usually drought-stricken central west town of Winton looks more like an island.

Flood levels in Winton peaked at 3.7 metres on Tuesday night, with muddy brown floodwaters isolating the town and inundating all but one access road.

Winton Mayor Gavin Baskett said a handful of people had been evacuated as a precaution, but most homes had so far been spared.

He said the town had State Emergency Service (SES) and swift-water rescue crews on standby, and additional paramedics had been brought in.

Despite the town's isolation, Mr Baskett said the .

"The people that are getting affected by the water might not be too impressed by it, but everyone else has loved the rain," he said.

"It's always great to see a bit of a flood — that's one way to get the country nice and drenched after five or six years of drought.

Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Diana Eadie said Winton had received 232mm of rain over the past week.

"The historical average is 96.7mm, so we've well and truly exceeded that already," she said.

She said only 36.4mm fell in autumn last year, and the last time the season had experienced this much rainfall was more than a decade ago.

Cyclone forms in Coral Sea

Meanwhile, a category 1 tropical cyclone has formed in the Coral Sea near New Caledonia overnight.

Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Sam Campbell said Tropical Cyclone Hola could intensify today, but there was no risk to Queensland.

"It is expected to take a more southerly track during the day though and track back to the south-east at the moment and it's not expected to have any impact on the Queensland coast," Mr Campbell said.

Mr Campbell also said a low-pressure system dumping rain in the Gulf of Carpentaria had a "low" chance of developing into a cyclone over the weekend.

"The chances will generally increase slightly next week, so still a low chance for next week off the east Queensland coast in the north there — though there is increasing potential," he said.

Infrastructure impacted

Winton Hotel owner Kevin Fawcett said the flood levels had not affected business so far, but said he was lucky to have stocked up early.

"With a week or two of stocks in advance sitting in your cold rooms and fridges … it's business as usual," he said.

"But certainly as time goes on, over the next week if we can't get supplies in, that can put a strain on your resources."

Mr Gaskett said the council would call for supplies to be flown in if the roads remained blocked over the coming days.

"We're running a bit short on bread and milk, but that's not a major [issue]," he said.

"The properties generally stock up well, so I'm pretty sure they're ready for a few days to a week of isolation."

He said it would be difficult to tell the extent of the damage to infrastructure before flood levels subside, but said he expected the clean-up to be widespread.

"They'll be some devastation through the roads in our shire — the dirt ones will be badly washed out," he said.

Mr Fawcett said for a community long-affected by drought, the "small inconvenience of being trapped in town for a few days" was worth it.

"We've been in drought out here for so long, so it's a bit of a novelty — everyone's saying how great it is," he said.

Trucks stranded at Longreach

Floodwaters have stranded 20 trucks at Longreach, south of Winton, forcing drivers to sleep in their cabins on the side of the road.

Truck driver Matt Davies, who was meant to be headed to Mount Isa, said the influx of truckies into one town was not ideal.

"There's not a real lot of amenities for us — two showers among 20 truck drivers and one toilet — that's about it," Mr Davies said.

"Everyone is sort of in their truck just waiting for some news for the road to open."

Mr Davies said a lot of freight was stopped at various places in western Queensland.

"It's a big financial loss because the truck's just sitting here doing nothing," Mr Davies said.

"People are expecting their furniture in Mount Isa — it's just not going to happen."

With roads cut to the east of Mount Isa, supermarket supplies and diesel are in short supply.

While some service stations still have diesel, the supermarkets have taken to the skies, flying in fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and other supplies.

Several trucks are stranded in the townships of Julia Creek and McKinlay waiting for the roads to open.


© ABC 2018

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