Devastation at damage, joy at rainfall as clean up begins
Drenching rains have provided bittersweet consolation to Mid West and Wheatbelt farmers left to pick up the pieces of a trail of ruin left behind by one of the scariest weather events many have experienced.
Cyclone Seroja smashed into the Mid West coast on Sunday night before moving inland with destructive winds at up to 170km/h.
After devastating the coastal town of Kalbarri, the storm hit farms at Yuna, Mingenew, Morawa, Beacon, Bencubbin, and more.
Some farmers said it was the scariest thing they had experienced — taking refuge inside overnight with no power or phone reception as the storm bore down.
While it flattened sheds, lifted roofs, drenched fertiliser and damaged machinery, the furious storm also brought inches of glorious rain to all corners of the grain belt.
Tipping up to 100mm out of rain gauges — if they hadn’t blown away — provided some consolation to those whose properties were caught up in the trail of ruin.
In most cases, the rain came before the winds picked up, meaning damage to topsoil was minimal.
Planfarm agronomist Nick McKenna said the rain had set WA grain growers up for what had been touted as the best start to the season in more than a decade.
He said Mid West growers would start seeding canola and lupins in coming days after a healthy 50mm-100mm of rain from November and March.
The 50mm tipped out of the rain gauge consoled Perenjori farmer Chris Patmore after his farm was “battered” by cyclonic winds, with more than $200,000 in sheds destroyed.
“Our main machinery shed got picked up and dumped out in the middle of the paddock in a million pieces,” he said.
“Every farm around Perenjori suffered considerable damage. I know of at least six farm homes that have lost their roofs.”
The damage was extensive in the Perenjori town centre, with the shuttered IGA store nearly flattened, while the Perenjori pub lost half of its roof.
Further south, the Hirsch family of Latham awoke on Monday to find their machinery workshop, two fertiliser sheds and two empty silos had been badly damaged.
Dylan Hirsch said 100,000 tonnes of granular fertiliser was now soggy after the roof of his main fertiliser shed broke away and two trees fell on it.
The dampened product has put pressure on the family in a year when fertiliser supplies are already tight.
“The shed is salvageable. In a normal year you would probably claim insurance for the fertiliser, but access to fertiliser is tight,” he said. “We may have to salvage what we can and spread some more damaged product.”
Jeanie and Jim Stanley were wide awake when a $10,000 garage built five years ago “ripped open like a sardine can” at 3am Monday.
The 165km/h winds that flew through their property sent pieces of the garage flying up to 20m away.
The couple retired on a 108ha property near Gabbin in the Eastern Wheatbelt eight years ago.
Mrs Stanley said the couple had barricaded their lounge room doors with a mattress and their front door with a plank of wood to stop doors “flying into the house”.
“This was the scariest thing that has ever happened to us,” she said.
“We were awake because we were so scared. The whole house was shaking.
“We thought the roof of the house had gone and we looked out the window to see the whole garage had split. It is in pieces.
“Some of it flew over the top of the garage and hit the water tank.
“We just can’t believe wind could cause so much damage.”
At Mullewa, Justine Rowe felt fortunate to lose little more than the roof of her generator shed and a chook pen in the storm.
“I made the comment that we felt like Dorothy during the tornado in the Wizard of Oz,” she said.
“It was absolutely terrifying overnight.”
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