Wheatbelt storms a mixed blessing

25 Jan, 2013 01:00 AM
Winds up to 90km/h proved no match for ageing gum trees and buildings.
Winds up to 90km/h proved no match for ageing gum trees and buildings.

WHEATBELT famers continued their love-hate relationship with Mother Nature last week as another storm lashed the Wheatbelt.

For some, the rain brought a boost to subsoil mositure stocks for the 2013 season.

For others, it meant no respite from spraying duties to control sprouting weeds.

And for the poor townfolk of Nungarin, it meant devastation of their small community, as a random storm, with winds up to 90km/h, wreaked havoc.

In its wake, about 1000 residents in the town and surrounding areas were left without power.

Major damage reports involved falling structures, flying debris and damaged power lines.

Western Power reported 100 faults spanning about 200 square kilometres, with widespread damage proving a logistical challenge.

A total workforce of 70 was sent out to assess and repair damage, with power restoration delayed due to structural damage.

Western Power spokesperson Heidi Couch said dispatched crews were touched by the community response.

"The crews, especially those from the city, felt extremely welcome by the residents of Karlgarin," Ms Couch said.

Karlgarin residents reported extensive damage to a number of buildings in the townsite as well as structures on surrounding farms.

The Karlgarin Country Club fell victim to the storm, when it received severe roof damage and has now closed until further notice due to the power outage.

Local Karlgarin resident and country club manager Glenda Wilkins said the dust, noise and heavy rainfall made the event scary.

But despite extensive damage she was optimistic about the future.

"The community will come back from this," she said. "There has been a lot of support and this town will survive."

The 2012/13 summer period has been wet and hot in the South West with above average rainfall and high minimum and maximum temperatures.

The unprecedented summer rain has given some confidence to south Doodlakine farmer Peter Nichols, who is optimistic about the 2013 season.

Mr Nichols estimated he received between 98mm and 104mm on his 6000ha eastern Wheatbelt property in three separate rainfall events last week.

He said the summer rain meant he had already started his spraying program in preparation for seeding.

"It is looking more positive this year," he said. "Grain prices look good and we have good subsoil moisture, so if we get some more rain around April and May we'll be in a good position."

While some were positive about 2013, others were more sceptical about potential effects of rainfall on the coming season.

Doug Dunham, located north of Lake Grace, recorded between 28mm and 33mm of rain on his 3000ha property last week.

"The melons were getting bigger and take up a lot of the moisture so we had to bite the bullet and start to spray even though we are prepared for the reality of more summer rain," Mr Dunham said.

"It drives us up the wall because summer spraying really is a painful and costly exercise but we really have no choice," he said.

Mr Dunham also experienced the wrath of last week's storm when the roof of his house was removed.

"We lost a quarter of our roof and it was absolutely bucketing down, when we heard a roar before the roof lifted," he said.

While he welcomed the rain, he said winter rain was of paramount importance and it was too early to tell what was in store for the 2013 season.

Coorow Landmark agent Bart Mailey said he had received mainly positive comments from farmers with regards to the summer rain.

He said chemical sales were up for this time of year and expected more sales in the wake of recent rainfall events.

"The rain had been a real confidence boost to the farmers in the area," he said.

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