Friday, June 15, 2007

Wild Winter Weather

The drought has lasted more than 5 years now with most of Australia affected. At one stage New South Wales was 98% drought declared. This means a lot of agricultural businesses are doing it tough. Lots of cattle and sheep, good breeding stock, have had to be sold and broad acre crops have either failed or not been planted for some years. Farmers are trying to sell up or just walking off their properties. Clearance sale advertisements fill up rural newspapers.
Rivers are drying up with our main irrigation area, the Murray-Darling basin, having water allocations withdrawn. But it’s not only a problem in the country. Capital city dams are the lowest on record. Sydney’s dam for instance is at about 30% capacity. Everyone is under very strict water usage restrictions ie. no watering the garden, no washing the car etc. A desalination plant is planned for the city as an emergency measure. The rainfall on the farm is running at about 50% average for the last 6 years. I have dry dams that have never been that way since I moved in 16 years ago and I can’t remember the last time my creek ran. Last week, a severe low pressure system developed off the coast around the Sydney/Newcastle area and we had our first winter storm considered to be the worst in 30 years. They had torrential rain, up to 250mm in 24 hours, and high winds 80-120km/hr. Flooding and wind damage has been widespread and nine people lost their lives. We got the tail end of the storm with some good falls but no damage.

A 40,000 tonne bulk carrier has been driven ashore in 18m seas onto a city beach in Newcastle which is a major coal loading port. It is still stuck there with a huge salvage operation in progress. But another low has formed off the south coast and is heading north so they are expecting more bad weather with big seas. They will need to get the ship refloated as soon as possible if they don't want it in the car park.

The second low has dumped a large amount of rain on us and it has snowed only a few kilometers away. So winter has well and truly arrived. All my new tanks are full, the dams are filling and the creek is starting to flow again. It was so great to see the weather radar looking like this.

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