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‘Fantastic’ rain brings relief to several communities up north

flooding in Mt Isa

Prayers answered: Flooding of the Leichhardt River shut down two of Mount Isa’s bridges, forcing all traffic to and from the city to use one bridge. Photo: Kimberly Mealing.

TRAFFIC is not a word Corena Powers uses much in Mount Isa.

But that’s what graced the Good Shepherd parish secretary’s morning school drop-off just days after what was the heaviest rainfall through the north-west Queensland city in years.

Flooding of the Leichhardt River shut down two of Mount Isa’s bridges, forcing all traffic to and from the city to use one bridge.

Some vehicles were stuck in traffic for up to 45 minutes.

“It was a little bit chaotic,” Ms Powers said.

“My daughter is sixteen and has never been in a traffic jam.”

Looking out of her office in Mount Isa, all Ms Powers could see was “grey skies” and the sun “feebly trying to shine through them”.

“Mount Isa is no longer in a drought-declared area, that is the latest news (parish priest) Fr Mick (Lowcock) said to me,” she said.

A week before the massive rainfall last week, Ms Powers said the rains through Mount Isa had been “a hit-and-miss situation”.

“It won’t cover the whole of one property, it will be spots on the property,” she said.

“We get what we think is a decent storm, but it’s out of one cloud.”

But the recent rains were enough for Good Shepherd parish priest Fr Mick Lowcock to cancel Mass in neighbouring Cloncurry, which received more than 100mm of rain over the weekend.

Ms Powers said the bread and meat shelves at the local Woolworths were also empty, causing panic for grocery shoppers.

Queensland drought: The rainfall was enough to flood Mt Isa (left) over the weekend. It’s a stark contrast to the sights in Barcaldine (right) in recent months, which has not seen drought-breaking rain in years. Photos: Kimberly Mealing (Mt Isa) and Fr Bill Senn (Barcaldine).

Property owner says drought in Muttaburra region ‘by far the longest’

Eight hours south-east of Mount Isa, sheep and cattle property owner Peter Ahern watched some “fantastic” rain fall on his property near Muttaburra.

Mr Ahern was predicting moderate floods to roll through the region after the heavens opened up last weekend.

“This is the best summer rain in six years,” he said. “If there’s more rain over the next week or so it could change things.”

Mr Ahern has spent 40 years on Girrahween station, a “smaller” 14,500ha property his father bought when the Ahern sons finished high school.

The 57-year-old has not seen drought-breaking rain in seven years, and said it was the worst drought in his entire working life on Girrahween.

“It’s certainly a huge relief for this whole region because it’s been probably one of the worst in this country,” Mr Ahern said.

“We’ve had other little severe periods, (but) this has been by far the longest.”

Because of the drought, Mr Ahern sold a portion of the best of his cattle in 2015 “when the cattle prices weren’t so good” and is slowly building the numbers up, a process that will take several years.

“It’s getting pretty stressful,” he said.

He believes it will still take years for the country town to recover from the severe drought conditions.

“You don’t recover overnight from a drought of this magnitude,” Mr Ahern said. “It’s been a long haul but hopefully it’s onwards and upwards.”

Priest planned to lead community in prayer for rain

Out west in Winton, parish priest Fr Emmanual Gyamfi had planned to lead his congregation through prayer and Benediction for rain.

“Two weeks ago I told them if it had not rained by yesterday, we’ll start at 5.30pm with prayers and then go into Mass and Benediction,” Fr Gyamfi said.

He was on his way to celebrate Mass when a parishioner called him to say the rains were on their way.

Fr Gyamfi never made it to Winton, which is a five-hour drive from Townsville and nearly three hours from his other church community in Hughenden, because of uncertain weather conditions.

“It’s very hard, the weather is very hard,” he said. “That’s why I told the people two weeks ago if it had not rained by yesterday, all of us have to come and pray.”

Fr Gyamfi, originally from the south of Ghana where it rains constantly, is the only priest serving Hughenden, Richmond and Winton.

He arrived in Townsville four years ago and has been the administrator for the three country towns since May last year.

He said Hughenden and Richmond received good rainfall last weekend but Winton Catholics were still struggling.

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