Two weeks ago it rained across much of South Eastern Australia. In Terrigal, on the coast where I live, it poured down for about a day. This was our first serious bout of prolonged rain for over five months. Our 7,500-litre-capacity rainwater tanks are full again, glory be.
Even such a downfall was not enough to really break the drought in this part of Australia, but it gave the plants and the weeds a small drink. Sadly that was it for now. There’s been no follow-up rain so the trees are still stressed and even the usually drought-resistant eucalypts are looking sick.
First rain in a decade
The rain has not been uniformly distributed but there have been big falls inland in drought-stricken areas and some areas of inland Queensland and north-east New South Wales have received their first drink in a decade. Yes, that’s right: the first rain for ten years. Some school age-children saw rain for the first time. Farmers are literally dancing with joy in the mud. Empty dams on rural properties have become small lakes. Dry creek beds have become raging torrents. But they need much more.
Many of the fires have been extinguished and others have been dampened although some are still burning, including those in the Snowy Mountains where a C130 firefighting aircraft crashed last week while water bombing a big fire. Sadly the three American crew members were killed in the crash.
We have had really hot weather again this last weekend so the threat of fires is still very much ongoing.
Last week I drove inland to Canberra and, beyond the Great Dividing Range, the country is still very dry with no evidence of any rain having fallen. I stayed in Canberra where it was extremely hot and windy. A big grass fire started right on the outskirts of the city and, for a while, it threatened homes. This fire was caused by arcing from power lines bought down by the wind.
The damage caused to the country and the wildlife and the people by the fires this summer is catastrophic. Thanks to the amazing response to the various bushfire appeals including the Red Dot Cameras appeal in London, there is a lot of support for the many people who have lost everything but the clothes they were wearing. Thank you, Red Dot, and to Macfilos readers around the world who chipped in and might still win a Leica D-Lux 7. The appeal is still open until the end of March.
The above photo of our Illawarra flame tree was taken from my house at midday on the day of rain. This beautiful tree has bushfire connections. In 2009 there were devastating bushfires in Victoria in which 173 people died. It was determined that the fires had started due to trees touching power lines. In a subsequent class-action the owner of the electricity network, SPAusnet, had to pay out damages of nearly one billion Australian dollars — say half a billion pounds Sterling.
As a result of these devastating fires and, presumably, the size of the damages, payment electricity network companies are now very aggressive in cutting back trees near power lines. In my case, the Illawarra flame tree is a few metres from the power lines and, anyway, it is a very slow-growing tree. But this has not stopped the tree pruners contracted by Ausgrid from enthusiastically hacking branches off it every winter. So it would be even more colourful if the hackers were a little more restrained.