Producers pin rainfall hopes on remnants of Cyclone Oswald

James Nason, 22/01/2013

It may be several weeks behind schedule, but the arrival of Cyclone Oswald overnight has heralded a much-needed start to the northern monsoon season and revived hopes of seasonal relief for many parched northern cattle properties.

Cyclone Oswald crossed Queensland’s western cape near the indigenous community of Kowanyama early this morning and has since been downgraded to a tropical low, but continues to bring heavy rain across the Peninsula and far north.

Cattle producers in northern and central Queensland, some relying on fodder drops to feed cattle after fires destroyed grass reserves earlier in the summer, are desperately hoping for rain in coming days as the monsoonal trough that produced Oswald tracks south west.

The system has so far brought heavy rain to the western cape and parts of the Gulf country around Normanton, Croydon and Einsleigh.

Forecasts suggest large areas of the north should benefit from some rain as the trough moves south over coming days.

AgForce North Queensland manager Paul Burke said that despite the late start to the northern wet season, temperatures were still hot enough to ensure that any rain that falls should still convert into grass growth quickly.

While rain was badly needed, big falls could also prove problematic in fire-affected areas.

“For the ones that are badly burnt out it could be a problem if they get very big rains, because all of their grass cover will be gone, they’ve got pretty big risk of erosion,” Mr Burke said.

At Watson River Station on the western cape, Luke Quartermaine measured 375mmm (15 inches) this morning.

“The cyclone is further south so we are just catching the tail end of it, but we’re definitely wet, that’s for sure,” he said.

He said the property had benefited from a fall of 100mm earlier in the summer which had provided green grass and kept cattle moving forward, which meant they would be in good condition to endure the sudden inundation brought by Oswald.

“If we’d had no rain and got 15 inches it wouldn’t be real good at all, the cows would be poor, and then they’d have to struggle through the bog, it would be pretty bad,” Luke said.

He said the rain had also replenished dam levels on Watson River Station which had been getting low prior to the event.

Oswald produced wind gusts of up to 100km which are not extreme by cyclone standards but still strong enough to damage vegetation and to bring trees down over fences.

“If is one of the reasons why we need vegetation management laws changed, so people can clear back from their fences a reasonable distance,” Mr Burke said.

The Pilbara is also on cyclone watch for the second time in two weeks as a tropical low progresses.

A warning is current for coastal areas from Pardoo to Mardie, including Port Hedland and Karratha, as a tropical low which is situated 270km south west of Broome moves slowly south west.

The bureau said the low may developed into a tropical cyclone on Wednesday as it moves southwest just of the Pilbara coastline. 


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