Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What the ... ?! Weather, Fire, Flood

The weather is sure weird. Little more than a month ago I farewelled my winter log fires and welcomed our southern hemisphere spring season; that is, September (still cool to cold), October and November. Summer here is supposed to be December, January and February.

But "spring" November turned into a hottest-on-record. Top temp six days ago was an absurd 46 degrees Celsius, 114 degrees Fahrenheit. Hot northerlies brought a blast of desert heat from Australia's baked inland, with major fire risk and actual fires in crops and bushland. Mercifully, the fires thirty kilometres north of my place were contained. The temperature dropped dramatically overnight and welcome rains arrived.

Over on the country's east coast, northern and inland New South Wales, for a while there were one hundred and fifty fires going, a dozen of them out of control. The cool change - and much hard work by fire-fighters - saved the day. There has been no loss of human life, but livestock and wildlife deaths were substantial. Homes were lost.

Friends on the north coast of New South Wales have twice in recent months been flooded out. It's one of the ironies that fire and flood often occur as twin disasters. In the bad 1983 fires which I witnessed, the hillsides above Adelaide's Waterfall Gully were burnt out and, days later, the lack of vegetative barrier allowed rain run-off to cause severe local flooding which destroyed homes. Nature does things its own way, I guess.

I was touched and grateful that several folk contacted me by phone or email, to ask "Are you O.K.?" after they heard news reports of the fires and heat on the Yorke Peninsula. Oddly, they had this news before I knew anything about the problems. I live down near the southern end of this piece of terrain. Glad to say we had no fires, and even the extreme hot winds took a couple of extra hours to reach my place. The morning had been quite balmy and pleasant!

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