Meander turns into a wild ride

Murray Charity Meander participants caught a lift in this boat after their own boat became caught in rough conditions on Lake Hume. Pictures: PETER MERKESTEYN
Murray Charity Meander participants caught a lift in this boat after their own boat became caught in rough conditions on Lake Hume. Pictures: PETER MERKESTEYN
Cars drive around a fallen tree branch on Osburn Street in Wodonga.

Cars drive around a fallen tree branch on Osburn Street in Wodonga.

A MAJOR search and rescue operation was called in last night after wild weather caused chaos for boats on Lake Hume.

About a dozen boats became caught in heavy rainfall and strong winds on the lake about 6pm yesterday

The group had been participating in the Murray Charity Meander when the weather changed, with NSW and Victorian police, the Albury and Border Rescue Squad and Lake Hume Coastguard called in to rescue the participants.

“It was pretty scary actually,” event co-ordinator Dick Phillips said.

“When you’re out there in a small boat and the waves are quite big, it’s not an ideal place to be.”

Mr Phillips said the group had checked the weather in the morning and said the “sun was shining and everything was fine” when they set off from the Wymah Ferry about 4pm.

Three of the boats banked at Talgarno when the storm hit and will need to be retired today, and one partially sank.

One boat had propeller problems and was being towed when it started raining.

“Fortunately everyone is accounted for,” Mr Phillips said.

“Part of the requirements for people to participate is having a two-way radio, and we bought a satellite phone for this type of incident.

“We hoped it wasn’t going to happen, but at least we have these mechanisms in place.”

Albury and Border Rescue Squad deputy captain Paul Marshall said the waves had been about 1.5 metres high, and while the emergency services were brought in, the group did not need to be rescued.

“They’ve taken the best course of action by trying to get to the bank,” he said.

“There’s a bit more contrast with boats on the bank, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack out in the middle among the trees.

“They also had lifejackets on, which was good to see.”

Emergency services were also called out to other weather-related jobs, including a fallen tree branch on Osburn Street, Wodonga.