Owen delivers mixed blessings

Cyclone Owen aftermath 2018


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Owen brings heartache and happiness to the North.

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Pippa Hewitt 2, plays with brothers Harry Hewitt 7 and Hugo Hewitt 5 on Hanging Rock Station at Belyando Crossing after the biggest deluge of their lifetimes.

Pippa Hewitt 2, plays with brothers Harry Hewitt 7 and Hugo Hewitt 5 on Hanging Rock Station at Belyando Crossing after the biggest deluge of their lifetimes.

THE tiny hamlet of Halifax in North Queensland received the highest daily rainfall ever recorded in Australia in December as ex-tropical cyclone Owen crossed the region on Saturday.

Halifax was dumped with a record-breaking 681mm in the 24 hours to 9am on Sunday, inundating crops and farms in the region.

The shock rainfall took property owners by surprise, with some unable to prepare for the whopping deluge.

Dan and Leanne Cordner, of Bellasato Farm at Macknade lost hundreds of their prized Sommerlad poultry chickens in the flood as waters quickly rose.

Mr Cordner said they received more than 700mm overnight, and 281 or their chickens in one paddock perished. 

That paddock would easily have handled a 400mm deluge, but there was nothing to indicate the extremes.

Mr Cordner spent the night protecting their 250 breeding birds at the house block and it was only at first light they realised the devastation.

Their two Maremma dogs that were guarding the paddock birds were swimming in floodwater, unwilling to leave their charges.

Bureau of Meteorology meteorologist Harry Clark described the weather event as ‘phenomenal.’

Mr Clark said while forecasters had expected heavy isolated showers, rain around the Ingham and Cardwell regions was above what was anticipated.

He said Halifax’s 681mm was the most rain ever recorded at that location in a day, and was a new Australia wide December record.

The Cardwell Range had 552mm in the 24 hours to 9am Sunday, Lucinda had 500mm and Ingham 485mm, which were all December daily records.

By contrast Innisfail received 195mm and Townsville Airport 138mm.

Halifax has now recorded 1077mm for December, and Cardwell 1039mm.

“The December rainfall in some of those areas has now exceeded over a metre of rain, which is pretty phenomenal in around seven days.”

Palm Creek Brahmans owner Peter Chiesa said his block near Forrest Beach ended up with 653mm overnight Saturday to about 10am Sunday.

Mr Chiesa said if there was any more rain the nutrition levels of the grass would decline.

“We might be alright if we don’t get any more rain at the moment, but if we get more coming along it will be a wet affair with not much nutrition in the grass,” he said.

“If we get sunshine and humidity the grass will be growing out of our ears.”

Cane growers in the district are still waiting to see the damage but expect there will be some crops lost.

Herbert River Canegrowers chair Michael Pisano said in some areas the trash blanket had floated from one block to another, smothering and killing young cane.

“The other impact is going to be washouts on haul roads and culverts because the amount of water in a short time created a lot of currant.”

His block at Braemeadows received 680mm in the deluge, just 1mm less than Halifax.

“We have gone from one of the driest harvests on record to the wettest night on record. In my area, I can’t remember that amount of rain overnight.

“I was expecting the 300mm mark, which is what we'd expect in those sort of conditions.”

But while those in the Hinchinbrook were mopping up and counting their losses, ex-Owen brought unexpected joy to others, including Cameron Hewitt of Hanging Rock Station at Belyando Crossing.

Mr Hewitt was counting his blessings after receiving his highest single rainfall in almost eight years.

He recorded 173mm in the 24 hours from lunchtime Saturday, which was follow up rain from a shower on Wednesday.

“We have had about 206mm for the week.

We had probably double than what most had around here, seem to have been lucky.

“This is the biggest fall in the last eight years, and the first fall over 80mm in eight years.

“Because it’s sort of follow up rain it will do a world of good here, we’re starting to grow some grass on the eastern parts and everyone is looking for a bit more follow up in the next few weeks to really make it go the length.

“For us, it has filled out dams and that allows us to relax over Christmas, it will really take a load off.

“If we can get a couple of good falls in the next month or six weeks, we will be looking really good for 2019.

“We couldn’t be any more lucky and grateful, this really is just like life changing rain.”

But rain is not forecast for the district for the remainder of the week.

Mr Clark said ex-TC Owen was sitting offshore of Mackay as a weak low and would slowly drift back north, but said there was no chance it would reform into a cyclone.

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