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Seeding 2022: South coast farmers record 50-200mm in 24 hours but sunshine on the way

Headshot of Shannon Verhagen
South coast growers got 50-200mm on April12-13.
Camera IconSouth coast growers got 50-200mm on April12-13. Credit: Supplied

South Coast farmers woke up to overflowing dams and rivers busting at the seams on Wednesday, after a slow moving storm system delivered a triple digit deluge to their farms.

While much of the Wheatbelt got a drink, it was the stretch between Ravensthorpe and Esperance that copped the heaviest falls, with farmers reporting upwards of 150mm in certain spots in 48 hours.

It is the most amount of rain many have seen since the 2017 floods, but with rain easing and sunshine forecast, roads are already reopening, with minimal damage reported in a handful of buildings at this stage.

According to the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s radars, the wettest areas were Munglinup (182.4mm), Boyatup (141.2mm), Coomalbidgup (138mm), Jerdacuttup (122.4mm) and Ravensthorpe (116mm).

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While growers who had started seeding say it will likely “knock some canola about,” with the rain easing and sunshine forecast for the weekend, it has been heralded a “fantastic” start to the 2022 growing season.

Munglinup growers Gemma Walker and Dean Wormald welcomed the 80mm they received on their home farm Hamilton Downs, east of Ravensthorpe.

“It’s fantastic, it’s so exciting when you see the clouds coming,” Ms Walker said.

“We’re very happy we’ve had the rain, everything’s been ready to go for about two weeks.”

Munglinup farmers Gemma Walker and Dean Wormold with their children Sophie, 4, and William, 2 in front of the Oldfield River flowing over their driveway.
Camera IconMunglinup farmers Gemma Walker and Dean Wormold with their children Sophie, 4, and William, 2 in front of the Oldfield River flowing over their driveway. Credit: Gemma Walker/Supplied

Together with her keen dam inspectors Sophie, 4, and William, 2, they headed out in their wellington boots and raincoats Wednesday morning to check out dam levels and of course, splash in the puddles.

“We’ve got dams that were cleaned out and are now full which is going to be great for spraying and for the sheep,” Ms Walker said.

Sophie and William Wormald splashing in the puddles on their Munglinup farm.
Camera IconSophie and William Wormald splashing in the puddles on their Munglinup farm. Credit: Gemma Walker/Supplied

While they did not hit triple digits on the home farm, they are yet to find out how much fell on their second property along the coast which they are converting from stock to cropping land, because the Oldfield River has flooded the road in.

“That’s the first time we’ve seen that run since 2017,” Ms Walker said.

Cascade grower Tom Carmody clocked up 152mm on his Coomalbidgup property.

“It was a lot more than we were expecting,” he said.

Having sown 250ha of pasture and 620ha of canola a week prior, he hoped the drainage systems on the property would funnel most of the water into a large dam built two years back.

Water on Tom Carmody's Coomalbidgup property, where he received 152mm.
Camera IconWater on Tom Carmody's Coomalbidgup property, where he received 152mm. Credit: Tom Carmody/Supplied

“We’re pretty confident 20ha will be buggered but the rest of it should hold up,” Mr Carmody said.

“It’s a lot of rain to fall on small germinating canola, but we’ve got a pretty good stubble base, it’s controlled traffic and it’s nice soft country so it should handle it alright.

“150mm is a bit more than ideal, but it’s not going to be devastating for us, the pasture is half the program and that’ll love the rain.”

Water on Tom Carmody's Coomalbidgup property, where he received 152mm.
Camera IconWater on Tom Carmody's Coomalbidgup property, where he received 152mm. Credit: Tom Carmody/Supplied

Extensive drainage systems on the property — formerly a blue gum plantation which they cleared in 2013-14 — would channel most of the water into a big dam, he said, giving them the opportunity to try something new come summer.

“Coomalbidup tends to get pretty wet in July-August most years — it’s a 600-650mm rainfall area,” Mr Carmody said.

“Now that the dam is full, we’ll have a play with irrigation, the intention was to jumpstart our pastures.”

His other properties in Cascade and north of Cascade for 75mm and 47mm.

Water on Tom Carmody's Coomalbidgup property, where he received 152mm.
Camera IconWater on Tom Carmody's Coomalbidgup property, where he received 152mm. Credit: Tom Carmody/Supplied

Coomalbidgup farmer Tash Piggott also got a triple digit drop, with their driveway and internal roads turned to rivers.

They got 146mm on the home farm, with their neighbouring property recording just under 70mm for the same time period.

Heavy rain at Tash Piggott's Coomalbidgup farm.
Camera IconHeavy rain at Tash Piggott's Coomalbidgup farm. Credit: Tash Piggott/Supplied

Magenta farmer Doug Giles had 20-30mm across his properties north of Ravensthorpe in isolated falls.

“In about an 80ha block around the house we had 28mm in 10 minutes,” he said.

The double digit falls were a welcome drop after clocking up 30-40mm the week prior when much of the Wheatbelt got a drink and a smaller drop earlier in the year, bringing his total so far to around 80-90mm.

The roads are all closed to vehicles more than 4.5 tonnes, with his truck parked up down the road until they reopen.

Mr Giles said plans to start seeding after Easter to get another weed kill and germination down before seeding.

“We’ve got a week left until lambing, so it’s great for us, they’ll be onto some nice green tucker,” he said.

“And out where we’ve got some cattle we’ve got regrowth barley, we’ve got feed there that’s 75-100mm tall.

“It’s been so warm so it’s been growing so fast — it’s been a brilliant start for us.”

Bureau of Meteorology duty forecaster Jessica Lingard said the concentrated nature of the storms was due to atmospheric winds blowing storms in the north and south together.

“The main driver was a slow moving trough supported by an upper level low,” she said.

“The direction is steered by wind in upper atmosphere, so storms in the north were steered south and storms in the south were steered north and the ones in the middle got stuck and they just sort of hung around.

“Typically you’d expect storms to move, but they just hung around in one spot.”

Ms Lingard said warmer weather and sunshine was on the way.

“Thankfully that system is starting to move away offshore,” she said.

“There will still be some showers around today... the sun will be back out Friday.”

Many growers have compared the heavy falls to those of the one-in-300-year flood in 2017, however Ms Lingard said the risk of flooding was reducing as the land would have a chance to absorb the water in the coming days.

“That was a much longer event, that was five days of significant rainfall, whereas this was two,” she said.

“Having that extended period of time of heavy rainfall, the land doesn’t have the opportunity to soak it up.

“But thankfully it is easing and sunshine is on it’s way, so the water will start receding and it will give the land an opportunity to soak it up and ferry it away.”

Ravensthorpe shire chief executive Matthew Bird said reports from residents suggested 50-200mm fell across the region.

While he said there had been no “significant” damage, several shire buildings in Ravensthorpe were impacted by leaks and flooding, and the daycare centre in town had been closed due to access being cut off by flooding.

Heavy rain at Tash Piggott's Coomalbidgup farm.
Camera IconHeavy rain at Tash Piggott's Coomalbidgup farm. Credit: Tash Piggott/Supplied

Reports from local SES teams were that they assisted at one home which had been damaged by the heavy rainfall.

As for the road network, Mr Bird said it appeared the investment in drainage through the area following the 2017 floods had been working well, with the main roads in and out of Ravensthorpe opened Wednesday morning.

As of lunchtime Wednesday, just one sealed road remained closed — Jerdacuttup Road at the Horner Road intersection — but unsealed roads remained closed to all traffic.

Mr Bird said teams were out Tuesday night and would continue to monitor roads and any potential damage.

“It’s a bit early to know if there is any damage,” he said. “I think where the water is over Jerdacuttup Road they are anticipating a little bit, but the works done post the 2017 floods were done to a really high standard so everything seems to have held up really well.

“We’re hoping to have some clarity (on road damage) later today.”

Mr Bird said the airport remained operational, however the gravel runway was closed.

South Coast Rainfall Totals April 10-13

Boyatup – 141.2mm

Cascade – 63.6mm

Coomalbidgup – 138mm

Jerdacuttup – 122.4mm

Mount Madden – 55mm

Munglinup – 182.4mm

Ravensthorpe – 105mm

Ravensthorpe Dam – 116.2mm

Scaddan – 69.8mm

West River – 71.6mm

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