Nungarin drought ends with deluge

Lauren Celenza, CountrymanCountryman

In an ironic twist of fate, the drought-stricken Wheatbelt town of Nungarin was inundated with more than two times last year’s rainfall in less than five hours.

The shop, main pavilion and 10 houses were flooded last Friday morning, after it rained non-stop from 7am.

All major roads leading into town were flooded. People were trapped in their homes and cars and some vehicles were pushed along by the surging water.

Frank Barge, an 83-year-old local, had to be rescued through a window of his home as water levels reached more than 1.5m in the town centre.

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CBH’s charity seed bank was washed away and the railway line was severely damaged.

CBH Merredin area manager Craig Gault said the flash flood washed out the walls of the Nungarin stacks, damaging at least 600 tonnes of grain.

“Walls were down on both sides of the stacks; three stacks holding about 1400 tonnes of seed-bank were affected, ” he said.

Trayning shire work supervisor Eric Eeles was directing traffic away from the town as debris and fast currents lined the route.

“The rain came down fast and roads were flooded over a metre high, ” he said. “The last time I saw something like this, it took days for the water to pass.”

Farmer Gary Coumbe measured 225 mm in his rain gauge by midday.

“This is the most we have ever received in one go, ” he said. “It’s ironic, because last year we had 110mm for the whole season and this was in five hours.

Gary said an empty 50 cubic meter dam was filled within half an hour. “At least it will give us some good subsoil moisture, ” he said.

However, his sheep flock was running riot as many of his fences were now washed away.

Gary’s wife Helen spent hours frantically sweeping water away from their home’s front door.

“At 7am we had 18mm, and then it just kept pouring down, ” she said. “I have been here 36 years and have never seen anything like this.”

Nungarin farmer Ron Creagh recorded 280mm in one of his gauges.

“We’ve lost a lost of fencing and a lot of top soil, but we don’t think we’ve lost many sheep, ” he said.

“The real benefits are that we’ll have soil moisture in our heavy country, and we really haven’t had that for three or four years.

“We’ll have green feed within a couple of weeks and all our dams are full.”

The water quickly subsided, sinking into the earth and running into the lake systems, which are now chock-a-block.

Shire president Eileen O’Connell said she had never seen so much mud as there was in the general store.

“There was two feet of water in the general store and all the buildings on the main street, except for the hall, the shire building and the hospital, were flooded, ” Ms O’Connell said.

On Thursday night, Warburton was hit by severe flooding, with locals saying streets were covered in 2m of water.

Families evacuated their homes and two people were stranded in a car.

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