Devastation as Wheatbelt farmers count cost of giant hailstones in middle of harvest
Wheatbelt farms have been smashed by hail just weeks into harvest, with some paddocks left with giant holes and flattened crops after a thunderstorm tore through.
Wheatbelt towns Hyden, Karlgarin and Corrigin copped the brunt of the ferocious storm in the afternoon of Tuesday, November 14, with marble-sized hailstones photographed in all three of the areas.
Some farmers reported crop damage of between 50 to 100 per cent across paddocks, but the damage was erratic — with some farms just kilometres away from each other recording vastly different impacts.
Bev Gangell, the store manager at Pingaring Ag Solution, was driving through Kalgarin when the worst of the hail storm hit, and said she could not believe her eyes.
She snapped a series of photographs showing hail stones in the middle of and on the side of the road.
Hyden farmer Colin Nicholl said the storm started at about and 5.45pm and dumped 15mm of rain along with the hail.
He and his wife Sally lost power to their home for nearly 24 hours.
Surprisingly, the damage was “mild”.
“The damage here won’t be worth claiming on insurance... but we were on the edge of the storm,” he said.
“We were not far from where some farmers got the brunt of it... but the hail were about the size of marbles here.”
The damage comes after a dry season for many in the Eastern Wheatbelt, with the 20mm that fell at Hyden making up nearly 10 per cent of its 216mm total for the year to date and coming far too late to be of any use to farmers’ crops.
Other farmers reported anecdotal rainfall results of more than 90mm.
Some of the biggest totals were recorded overnight at Holt Rock (42.4mm), Mount Walker (22mm).
Grain Industry Association of WA crop report author Michael Lamond, an agronomist at York, said the storms had “put the breaks on harvesting” for a few days but most farmers had restarted by the end of the week.
“The storms... have caused havoc for some growers who received the heavier falls of rain and hail,” he said.
A Western Power spokeswoman said its crews worked to restore power to about 470 home and businesses in Kondinin, Hyden, Karlgarin and surrounding areas after a pole was damaged.
“(The pole) required replacement following damaging weather on Tuesday, November 14,” she said.
“Power pole replacements can take up to eight hours… so power was off overnight.
“Power was restored by 1pm on Wednesday, November 15.”
The spokeswoman encouraged customers who had experienced an outage for more than 12 consecutive hours to apply for an extended outage payment through its website.
WA farmers are expected to harvest 14.95Mt of grain by the time harvest finishes in early January, well down on the 26Mt record that last year pumped $10 billion into the State’s economy.
November 9 to 16
(According to BOM and DPIRD)
Bonnie Rock 11.6mm
Canna East 15mm
Holt rock 42.4mm
Kellerberrin North 27.8mm
Lake King 31mm
Meckering North 30.8mm
Mount Howick 25mm
Mount Walker 24mm
Wongan Hills 42mm
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