NATURE’S spectacular noise and light shows across the northern and eastern Wheatbelt, bringing localised hail, lightning-strike fires and high wind threats to crops, are set to continue late this week.
Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) duty forecaster Cameron Lewis said the bands of thunderstorms which sparked crop fires on Friday afternoon and which followed harvest bans in some shires on that day and the previous day because of high temperatures, were expected to continue in a cycle.
“At this time of year we get troughs coming down the coast from the north bringing unstable air masses with them,” Mr Lewis said.
“Then a (high pressure) ridge will push them east.
“We did issue some severe weather warnings (last week) because of the likely severity of the thunderstorms that the troughs were bringing.
“We expect the same sort of thing (bands of thunderstorms influencing localised weather), but at this stage they are more likely to be mid-level rather than severe, by Thursday or Friday.”
Mr Lewis said strong gusts of wind reported widely across the Wheatbelt from Friday through to Monday morning were associated with the thunderstorm activity.
Winds gusting up to 72 kilometres per hour at Southern Cross in the eastern Wheatbelt for several hours on Friday night were of concern with the potential to blow down standing crops or strip newly-harvested paddocks of topsoil.
Earlier on Friday afternoon the Great Eastern Highway through Southern Cross was briefly turned into a river by a sudden hailstorm that was widespread across the Yilgarn.
It came after the temperature hit 36.3 degrees Celsius, the hottest day so far this month in the town, according to BoM data.
Despite the hailstorm and temporary flooding, only 2 millimetres of rain was recorded by BoM from 3pm Friday through to Saturday morning at Southern Cross.
Carnamah recorded 10mm of rain overnight from Thursday to Friday, one of the heaviest falls recorded in the Wheatbelt.
At Dalwallinu wind gusts of up to 61km/h in the middle of Friday accompanied temperatures up to 39.4oC before a thunderstorm dumped 6mm overnight.
North Kukerin also had 6mm on Friday night with a “lot of light show and noise”, according to Di Treloar, on the WA Wheatbelt Rainfall Facebook page.
Michelle Faulkner, on the same page on Saturday morning, summed up the localised nature of the weather affecting farmers on Friday.
She posted: “10mm (of rain) at south west Beacon, just where we are harvesting.”
“Fighting a fire just up from there, dry as a chip at that location on the neighbour’s property,” she said.
The Beacon thunderstorms sparked at least four fires south of the town and knocked out the local electricity supply.
People in Bencubbin reported seeing the Beacon fires.
The thunderstorms followed a harvest ban which had prevented farmers getting more of their crop off before any damage could be done.
The thunderstorms were widespread across the Wheatbelt with lightning strikes and wind doing most damage.
Morowa airport recorded no rain but wind gusts up to 48km/h on Friday and Sunday afternoons and up to 41km/h on Saturday afternoon and Monday morning after the temperature hit 40oC on Thursday.
Wind gusts at Badgingarra hit 43km/h early Friday afternoon and there was also no rain.
At Newdegate wind gusts up to 52km/h were recorded early Saturday afternoon, accompanied by 36oC immediately before less than a millimetre of rain fell.
Merredin received 4mm of rain on Friday with a thunder and lightning show.
The thunderstorms carried through the Wheatbelt into the Great Southern with “thunder all night” then hail Saturday morning at Gnowellen, east of the Stirling Ranges, according to resident Julie Bairstow on Facebook.
Munglinup had 3.8mm of rain overnight to Saturday morning and wind gusts up to 54km/h.
Katanning had 2.6mm overnight to Monday morning and wind gusts up to 48km/h on Sunday.