Maclean Towing’s Mick Bennett, Raven Smash Repairs office manager Ed Bennett, tow truck driver Corey Fuller and Raven’s owner Mick Howell are calling for better use of technology to help prevent motorists needing rescue on the Pacific Hwy.
Maclean Towing’s Mick Bennett, Raven Smash Repairs office manager Ed Bennett, tow truck driver Corey Fuller and Raven’s owner Mick Howell are calling for better use of technology to help prevent motorists needing rescue on the Pacific Hwy. JoJo Newby

We're over it

IN his 20 years as a tow truck driver, Mick Howell has rescued dozens of motorists from floodwaters that cross the Pacific Hwy at Musk Valley Creek and Alipou Creek - and he's had enough.

On Tuesday night he rescued two families within minutes as Grafton copped a massive downpour.

What baffles Mr Howell most is why available technology isn't applied to known danger spots.

His business, Raven Smash Repairs, is located at the top of the hill on the highway between the two low points to the north and south of Grafton.

To locals, these locations are known to go under regularly during flood events, but Mick and his colleague Corey Fuller say it's the travellers following trucks into floodwaters, mostly at night, that are at the biggest risk when the creeks overflow.

"Just about every time it floods we are pulling people out of there," Mr Howell said of the southern low-spot which can cover about 500 metres of highway in up to a metre of flowing water.

"Something's got to be done about it ... we're just over it."

While a raised roadway would be ideal, Mr Howell said realistically that was probably not an option because of plans for the highway to bypass Grafton in coming years.

"Why can't they put a solar-powered sensor on a guide post that starts some lights flashing to let people know there's water on the road?" Mr Fuller said. We asked Roads and Maritime Services this question and if there were any plans to improve these sections of highway.

"Flood-level markers which are used on flood-prone roads are in place on the Pacific Hwy at Musk Valley Creek," an RMS spokesperson said. "RMS is investigating flood-warning options available.

"There are no current plans to improve flood immunity in Musk Valley Creek.

"A detour is available during flooding at this location and RMS responds to reports of water quickly to close the road and acti- vate the detour.

"Motorists are repeatedly advised not to drive into flood-waters, even if it appears safe as water can rise very quickly to hazardous levels."

Armidale-based company RMTeK Pty Ltd supplies solar-powered water-level sensors complete with cameras, drop-down or LED signage and flashing lights to Queensland's Department of Transport and Main Roads.

Known as the Boylan Eagle Eye, the 6-8m poles deliver the department 24/7 visual and telemetry moni-toring of potentially dan- gerous locations.

RMTeK managing director Brendan Doyle said the systems vary in price from $20,000 to $40,000 depending on what is needed.

He said one of the big benefits of the system was a real-time two-way data exchange, thanks to Telstra Next G, in which "smart signs" could be operated remotely.

He said Eagle Eyes were being used effectively to monitor flash flooding in Mackay and in other areas to monitor ponding.

"The sensors mean department staff do not have to continuously travel for hours to remote locations to check on water levels around roads and structures," Mr Doyle told the Sunshine Coast Daily.

"This means greater safety for staff and the travelling public, as well as more accurate and up-to-date information on road conditions."

Mr Howell said he recalled an article which estimated the cost of a fatal crash at $1 million to the community, including emergency services, investigation, lost productivity and court costs.



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