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Tourists told to prepare for heatwaves, flies and flash flooding if headed to the outback

By Kelly Butterworth and Ellie Grounds, Wednesday October 14, 2020 - 11:34 EDT
ABC licensed image
Roads around Julia Creek were closed on and off for weeks following heavy rain in 2018. - ABC licensed

While there is a push to get people out and visiting Queensland this summer, outback communities prone to flash flooding and persistent 40-degree days are warning tourists to come prepared for the unexpected.



Elliott Dunn, the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) emergency management coordinator for Mount Isa, said messaging about safety needed to be at the forefront coming into summer.

"We are seeing unusual numbers [of tourists] leading into summer — we don't want to discourage people from travelling into western Queensland, we just want them to do their research and be informed," he said.

"We do have road closures with minimal notice, we do have a lot of small towns where you can't get essential supplies.

"Prepare to be a bit flexible, because Mother Nature may change your travel plans at very short notice.

"Be patient. These rivers come up and come down, you may be stuck in a smaller town ... don't ever try to drive through floodwaters. Be prepared to sit and wait it out."



Mr Dunn also said anyone hitting the road amid soaring temperatures should have at least a week of food and water with them.

"It will get hot, it will get very hot. It's not unusual for us to get weeks in the high 40s," he said.

"Just be aware of the temperature and don't go bushwalking in the high 40s and stuff like that."

Publican warns of long waits

No-one knows the risks of summer travel more than McKinlay's Walkabout Creek Hotel publican Frank Wust, who sees tourists stuck in the town most years.

Mr Wust said while he and wife Debbie would welcome a longer tourist season to make up for this year's losses due to the pandemic, he wanted visitors told to come prepared.



"They just need to be a bit prepared to get caught in floodwaters; every year McKinlay goes over here, and the longest we've had people stranded on a little island here is 10 days," he said.

"We had 35 people here for 10 days and, you know, a lot of people get a bit antsy.

"There's a lot of things that people are used to in more populated areas that they are just not going to get there ... sometimes you can't always get fuel when the weather's crook and the power's out or whatever."

Mr Wust said with many tourist attractions in the west and north-west closed over the hotter months, tourists should also be prepared to entertain themselves and be ready to deal with fly plagues.

"I have to admit, I'm not a fan of the flies either."



Heating up in the west

Outback Queensland Tourism Association chief executive Denise Brown said the message for people to visit the west would keep money flowing in the regions.

"We are cognisant of the fact that some of the areas will close down over summer, but most at this stage are saying that they're just going to wait until the end of November and see what their booking patterns are," she said.



Ms Brown said while there was no denying that high temperatures could turn potential visitors off, she said there were positives as well.

"It's pretty hot in Brisbane, it's pretty hot in Rockhampton, it's pretty hot in Townsville — the good thing about here is that you don't need to have product to get the frizz out of your hair it's so dry here.

"Coming out of 10 years of drought, these guys are really good at thinking for the future and building for the next generation."


- ABC

© ABC 2020

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