Stranded truckies hunker down in flood-ravaged North West Queensland

stranded truckies

The outback centres of Kynuna and McKinlay along the Landsborough Highway between Winton and Cloncurry are usually associated with being in a drought-stricken area.

However, in the aftermath of Cyclone Kirrily which struck near Townsville on January 25, the following rain hit inland including Kynuna and McKinlay.

These are small towns at which many trucks pull up at and two of their favourite places are the Walkabout Creek Hotel at McKinlay and the Blue Heeler pub at Kynuna.

Kynuna is on the banks of the Diamantina River located 303km south east of the regional centre of Mount Isa, while McKinlay is 90km away along the highway.

Both towns have long associations with the road transport industry and the Walkabout Creek Hotel was the location at which part of the Crocodile Dundee movie was filmed.

The Blue Heeler pub suffered major flood damage. Image: Matterson Knyvett

It has been run by the legendary Frank and Debbie Wust since 2014 and  the old truck which featured in Crocodile Dundee was sent there some years ago.

It held pride of place out the front until some time ago when it needed restoration and now is situated around the back of the hotel.

I had been to the Blue Heeler Hotel many times and used to travel there for years to cover an “Outback Surf Carnival” when many events were held without a drop of water being in sight.

However, drought turned to flooding after Kirrily when the highway was  closed after significant rain fell on Queensland’s north-west.

Local Matterson Knyvett used a drone to snap some videos and still shots of the flooding which makes for graphic viewing.

“I used a DJI Mini 3, one of the cheapest they make,” he told Big Rigs.

“If you are looking to get one. The mini 4 pro is the one I would recommend now. Massive flight time compared to the larger drones. We have five trucks, ranger with a boat and one hilux stuck here since Sunday night. Water was 1.7m over on Monday morning.”

Properties in and around McKinlay and Kynuna were inundated with between 400-500mm of rain over a 48 period.

That is more rain than most properties receive in a year, according to locals.

Six people were evacuated from a cattle station at Kynuna on January 29.

The Landsborough was also closed near McKinlay.

“Expect the highway to be cut off for some time. In early 2023, the road was cut for about a week and this time we’ve had more rainfall,” Superintendent Tom Armitt of the Mount Isa Police District told the ABC.

Police urged residents in the McKinlay and Kynuna areas to prepare for further evacuations with floodwater expected to rise over the coming days.

“It does not look like Kirrily is moving anywhere soon and we expect heavy rain to continue over the next 48 hours,” Superintendent Armitt said on January 29.

“We need people to be aware that more rain is coming. They need to make assessments about their safety and whether it is sustainable to stay on their properties.”

At the Walkabout Creek Hotel in McKinlay, the McKinlay River rose 1.7 metres above the Landsborough Highway bridge after nearly 200mm fell in the 24 hours to Monday.

Properties in and around McKinlay and Kynuna were inundated with between 400-500mm of rain over a 48 period. Image: Matterson Knyvett

“It’s the highest I’ve seen it in the 10 years we’ve been here,” publican Debbie Wust said.

“It’s just weird that we got all the big weather and Cloncurry, just up the road, didn’t — it’s a very strange weather system.”

Well-accustomed to flooding around the wet season, Wust said the pub had supplies that should last the town’s 10 residents and stranded truckies about a week.

“I’ve stocked up on pies and frozen stuff … we’ll keep the beer flowing and the locals entertained,” she said.

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