Saturday, October 27, 2012

Fires, smoke and drought in Armidale - our Armidale correspondent reports

I write a fair bit on the country press of old, most recently in History revisited - a pressing change. Now I note for posterity that the Armidale Express has dropped from a tri to a bi-weekly.

The country newspapers used to carry by-lines like news from our correspondent <insert locality>. In this case, I quote an email from Gordon Smith of lookANDsee fame.

Hi Jim

Just FYI, my normal bushwalking areas are completely closed due to bushfire.  It's claimed up towards 100,000 acres of bush so far.

Armidale has been sitting in a blue smoke haze, on and off, for several days. According to the above report, it's Kempsey that's getting the smoke today.

And to give you some local atmosphere ...

In contrast the previous two years of above average rainfall, there's been almost no rain here over the past few months.  We had to order some water from the carter yesterday as the house tanks are almost empty.   The paddocks are all crispy straw-brown in colour - no such thing as "Spring growth" as yet.

This lack of rain also means that the thousands of eucalypts around the property are shedding leaves due to water stress - thus increasing our ground fuel load and fire risk.

The snakes must like it though, I've never seen so many snakes this early in the year in this area - mostly blacks, but a few brown.

Our dams are still reasonably full as there's not yet been enough heat to evaporate the water away.  As a bonus, this means that the local wildlife population stays close by and are a pleasure to watch - including the koala that the dogs and I had to give way to as it crossed our path the other evening.

Those dreaded snakes! I remember walking up Mount Duval on a scout tramp. The number of brown snakes slithering round that side of the mountain was actually quite frightening!

Another time, my parents were visiting friends on a property outside Armidale. Bored, I went for a walk. Half a dozen snakes slithered across the path, including a very large brown. Yuck. In a later email, Gordon mentioned that the water carrier had just left.  He delivered 12,000 litres of water. That's about 4 or 5 weeks' worth - a bit more if they were frugal.

The brown colour in the grass is an early dry sign. In big droughts, the grass actually turns gray. 


Today's Saturday AM carried more stories of country newspaper closures.


Le Loup said...

Not good. We would normally be clearing our firebreak this time of year, should have done it earlier. But my wife & I have both been sick with flu for two weeks now! I hope we get rain soon. The frogs tell me it will rain soon, I hope they are right.
Regards, Keith.

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi Keith. I knew that you hadn't been well from Facebook. Let's hope the frogs are right!. As you will have seen, I put Gordon's photo up in the next post.