Some useful falls of rain have been welcomed across wide parts of drought-stricken Queensland and northern New South Wales, and there could be more to come this week according to forecasters.
While far from drought-breaking, the falls received so far should help to deliver short-term respite from drought feeding programs where it fell, and in places have also helped to run some much-needed surface water.
As is often the case the falls were hit and miss, with reports of properties measuring 75mm on one boundary while empty-dams on opposite boundaries failed to receive a drop.
As many properties missed out on rain as received it, judging by anecdotal reports, but the rain was still the most widespread that has been seen across large parts of Queensland and New South Walesfor at least two years.
The positive news is that more rain is likely this week. Weatherzone says the monsoon trough that became active a few weeks ago and brought rain to the northern tropics and then further south is in the process of restrengthening, and is set to combine with another near-stationary low-pressure trough over Queensland.
“The effect will be to generate rain and storms over much of the state each day for at least a week, bringing 50-to-150mm from the Gulf country to the southeast,” Weatherzone’s Brett Dutschke said yesterday.
“There is potential for well over 200mm, one-to-two times the monthly average. Flooding is highly likely. However, nearly all of those in the farming game will cop the flooding in order to replenish dams, get soil moisture to near-normal levels and get their cattle fed without having to rely on dry feed being trucked in.”
Weatherzone says the system could bring the heaviest rain in two years or more this week to areas such as St George, Miles, Roma, Charleville, Blackall, Windorah and Richmond areas. Lesser rain is expected west of the Channel Country and parts of the Central Coast, Capricornia and Wide Bay areas where some will only receive less than 20mm.
Where the weekend's rain fell
24 hour Queensland rainfall totals recorded to 11:20am today included Hughenden 62mm, Richmond 57mm, Cloncurry 37mm, Devoncourt Station 28mm, Camooweal 85mm, Mt Isa 57mm, Winton 70mm, Bedourie 31mm, Boulia 26mm, Tambo 30mm, Longreach 15mm, Augathella 107mm, Cunnamulla 37mm, Charleville 32mm, Morven 63mm, Eromanga 27mm, Quilpie 34mm.
Cloncurry livestock agent Peter Dowling, Dowling Livestock and Property, measured 14mm of rain near Cloncurry yesterday, taking the total of separate falls for the week to 85mm, the best rain his guage has measured for more than two years.
However the rain has been stormy and patchy in nature and not enough to provide a general break, Mr Dowling said.
“It will provide some short-term relief, it will provide a bit of a green pick and the opportunity to stop spending money on lick oand things like that, but at this stage it is certainly only short-term.
“If it was this time last year on the body of feed we had then it would have been perfect.”
At Longreach Bill Seeney from Ray White Rural said some very good falls of 60-100mm were received on properties west and north of Longreach yesterday and last night.
“It is probably as widespread a fall as we’ve had for a while, and for some graziers it is the best rain they have had in at least two years,” Mr Seeney said.
“February is our wet season, anyone who has had a bit of a start is laughing, for anyone that is starting from scratch it will be not a big growing season, but it will be the sort of growing season that if it keeps raining now you can go into winter with green grass and that would be a big advantage.”
After talking to clients across South West Queensland last night and this morning, Rod Turner from Landmark Roma said falls in that region, while patchy, still appeared to have covered a reasonable area, with reports he had received from individual property owners and managers ranging from 25-50mm in the Channel Country, 50mm at Boulia, 15mm at Eromanga, and 70mm east of Charleville and near Morven.
The situation around Roma itself was still desperate due to a lack of water and feed, but the rain outlook for this week was showing some promise.
As a direct consequence of the weekend's rain, the yarding for tomorrow’s Roma store appears likely to stop at 4000 head, well back on the near 6000 cattle yarded last week.
Paul Jamieson from Elders at Dubbo said he was aware of isolated but significant falls yesterday and overnight at 50mm plus Cobar in north western NSW and 70-80mm near areas such as Wanaaring near the far western Queensland/NSW border.
Closer to Dubbo rain amounted to around 10-20mm, something of a let down for people in the wake of forecasts predicting bigger falls.
“There are big tracts of the state now that apart from being very, very dry are also now very bare with it,” he said.
Other parts of NSW to receive rain from a broad low pressure trough that hovered over the state’s interior over the weekend included Orange, which collected 40mm, its highest fall since last winter, and Burrinjuck Dam, which received 59mm, and the Riverina where 25mm plus was reported.
Weatherzone expects the same trough to deepen again mid-week which could bring more rain to northern NSW.
Last week the remnants of a monsoon trough which drifted south delivered heavy rainfall of 45-75mm from the west coast of South Australia through to the mid-North and bottom end of the Flinders ranges, with falls also pushing into the Mallee and parts of western Victoria.
Stats bear out speed of plunge into drought
The dramatic change from wet to dry that has characterised the past few years in western Queensland is illustrated no more starkly than in the rainfall records from Blackall.
Weatherzone points out that Blackall received 730mm of rain in 2012 – 200mm more than the annual average – but then last year received just 36pc of its annual average, or 330mm.
This was the most rapid drying that out the Blackall region has experienced in 130 years of records, according to Weatherzone. “Typically it would take three-or-more years to dry out this much,” Weatherzone forecaster Brett Dutschke said. “The closest it has come to drying out this rapidly was in 1926 and 1915 when it took two years to become this dry after having been so wet.”
Just 100km up the road to the north, Barcaldine, which had experienced a similarly fast descent into drought, is already taking a turn for the better with more than 90mm in early February and 100mm in January.
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