Monday, 3 February 2014

Wet season is truely upon us

So we’re a month into the New Year already and whilst we haven’t blogged I cannot say it has been uneventful… We have definitely been kept busy here.

I know I mention the weather often and many would say it’s a very ‘British’ thing to do; to discuss the weather. But I have found it is a very common topic of discussion here in Queensland too. Particularly amongst farming communities or enthusiasts such as ourselves. Maybe it’s because the weather dictates so much, not just in what you can do, but what you need to do. And the last few weeks have been no exception.

Summer is traditionally the ‘wet season’ here.  And to date it has been a ‘late’ start. We had a little early rain at the beginning of November; that gave the paddock and gardens a much needed boost. But since then it has remained pretty dry, we had begun watering it (as best we could), along with the gardens; although this is never as effect as actual rain water.  Just as supplementing the animals feed never really compensated for actual fodder. We had hoped the pending rain would regenerate the last grazing section in the pig pen; but as it wasn’t coming the grass and veggies started to seed or reseed. So we let them in there so it wouldn’t go to waste, even if they would make short work of it.

We had also connected the large tank from the front to the house supply. We usually use this for the animals and gardens but as our house tanks were running low, we felt we should use this up first to allow for any coming rainfall- so less run off would be wasted. But the prolonged dry meant that we resorted to partially topping the tanks up with bore water (water pumped from the tablelands- like a well). However we knew once we did this, it would in fact rain. So the tanks have been full for a few weeks, from the scattered falls, but the paddocks were still looking dry.  And the extra few weeks had allowed us to finish a few jobs that we were yet to get around to. Such as the second pig shed, but I’ll discuss this separately. We did however, manage to get the shed up just in time! As we had our first event of the year- cyclone and associated rains.

Now I have heard a fair bit of debate in the media and online as to whether our cyclone was in fact a cyclone. Many were confused as they released the name that it would be, if it formed before it did. As it did it was upgraded the day before and passed over land as a category 2 system.

So this got me think when is a cyclone not a cyclone? And for those who do not live through these what do they mean.  So I turned to ‘BOM’ site- Bureau of Meteorology for a few answers

Tropical cyclones derive their energy from the warm tropical oceans and do not form unless the sea-surface temperature is above 26.5°C, and have gale force winds (sustained winds of 63 km/h or greater and gusts in excess of 90 km/h) near the center and can persist for many days (but must be at least six hours). Generally accompanied by heavy rainfall; a factor of the low pressure system along with flooding and storm tides.

These are the categories as per BOM.

The category does not refer to the amount of flooding or storm tides. If a storm tide is expected it will be mentioned separately in the cyclone warning.

Maximum Mean Wind (km/h)
Typical Strongest Gust (km/h)
Central Pressure (hPa)
Typical Effects
63 - 88
< 125
> 985
Negligible house damage. Damage to some crops, trees and caravans. Craft may drag moorings
89 - 117
125 - 164
985 - 970
Minor house damage. Significant damage to signs, trees and caravans. Heavy damage to some crops. Risk of power failure. Small craft may break moorings.
118 - 159
165 - 224
970 - 955
Some roof and structural damage. Some caravans destroyed. Power failures likely. (e.g. Winifred)
160 - 199
225 - 279
955 - 930
Significant roofing loss and structural damage. Many caravans destroyed and blown away. Dangerous airborne debris. Widespread power failures. (e.g. Tracy, Olivia)
> 200
> 279
< 930
Extremely dangerous with widespread destruction. (e.g. Vance)

  For historical reasons tropical cyclones are called different names in different parts of the world. The terms hurricane and typhoon are regionally specific names for a severe tropical cyclone (sustained winds of more than 118 km/h (64 knots).

I was also curious as to the difference between a ‘cyclone’ here is Australia and a ‘hurricane’ in America. As I was always lead to believe it was to do with wind direction- clock wise/ anti-clockwise.  However according to BOM it is just the different world regions. Hurricane is used in the North Atlantic Ocean, the Northeast Pacific Ocean east of the dateline, or the South Pacific Ocean east of 160E. Typhoon is used in the Northwest Pacific Ocean west of the dateline. However these are only comparable to ‘severe Tropical Cyclones’ these are category 4 and above. However those comparable to Category 1 or 2 would still be named elsewhere, but would be referred to as tropical storms.


In fairness last year’s rain totals would not have been too impressive if it hadn’t been for a couple of cyclone (and ex-cyclone) systems. But regardless of the severity, especially as these can intensify (or dissipate) quite quickly there are certain preparations to be made.

Cyclone Preparations

The general guideline here is to prepare to ‘camp’ for 3 days. As these storms can affect infrastructure… so power outages are not uncommon. A few years ago we lost power from a category 2 system for 6 days (and that was before we move ‘out of town’). Another consequence can be flooding, which in itself it may affect food supplies to the area.

So we stock up on ‘cupboard food’- powdered/UHT milk, soups, dried foods, water. Batteries for torches and/or candles (and water proof matches), they advise a wind up radio (for reports), first aid kits, gas for the bbq and/or camp stove, fuel the cars and in our case supplies for the generator- as even our water and sewer runs on power. These items need to be close to hand (so you know where they are), a specific box helps. Along with a waterproof holder for all your important documents- just in case you need to evacuate at short notice. And it’s a good idea to have tarpaulin, ropes etc ready to go- for emergency repairs if necessary.

There are also preparations to be made to your property too. Most modern constructions are cyclone rated, but you still need to clear your gutters (to accommodate the rainfall), tie down or store any items that may become debris- most we put in the shed, but even our outdoor furniture lives in the house during a storm. Some even tape or board windows (particularly older style houses).

And then there’s the animals. We keep them in (as best we can). Now whilst it’s unlikely that a cow or pig are going to fly away (or stay in the house), they maybe spooked or victim to debris. So the advice it to keep them sheltered if possible, but do not restrict/tether them, as this could be just as, or more stressful/dangerous. Generally they have the sense to seek shelter of their own accord… unlike the birds!

 In the hours up to the storm (if particularly bad) place mattresses in the smallest/safest part of the house. Turn off all gas and electricity at the supply and bunker down.

So the cyclone passed over last night, a little north of here. Though were still in the ‘warning’ and area of influence, though by comparison to previous years we got through this one rather ‘unscathed’.  There was still some localised damage; beach & beachside road erosion, creek flooding, some streets saw a fair amount of water, fallen trees.  But much of this is to be expected with this time of year. I guess all we can do is be prepared.