From dustbowls to deluge, the difference a week of rain makes

Sarah Pearce knew it was a long-standing drought when she could walk across the billabong on her Cecil Plains family property and not get muddy boots.

Feb 10, 2020, updated Feb 10, 2020
Sarah Pearce's family farm is now a sea of green. Feb 5, 2020. (Supplied: Sarah Pearce)

Sarah Pearce's family farm is now a sea of green. Feb 5, 2020. (Supplied: Sarah Pearce)

“That billabong had been there for at least 60 or 70 years and it had never been totally dry,” she said.

The view from the windows of the homestead, in the Darling Downs region near Toowoomba, was not pretty and the lack of water was affecting more than the crops in the paddocks.

“Everything was dead,” she said.

“The billabong dried out, everybody’s souls dried out, it was pretty depressing.

“The dry riverbed was a constant reminder, because it’s our livelihood [and] you start to fear that the grass will never come back.”

But after rain all week, the water is flowing, the billabong is full of water, and the grass is greener than it has been in years.

“It’s like a miracle,” Pearce said.

“It got to the point where you’d touch the grass and it’d turn to dust and then, almost the day after the rain there were green shoots everywhere.

“It gives you goosebumps thinking about it, because it feels like everyone can get back on track, because up until now it’s been a heartbreaking time.

“It’s not just the countryside that has changed; there are smiles on people’s faces.”

Ms Pearce’s family has measured 200mm of rain on their property over the past fortnight.

“Everyone’s coming to town and all they’re talking about is the rain,” she said.

Three hours west of the Pearces’ property it is a similar story on Sandy Stewart’s property near Roma.

“On Monday, our dam was bone dry and when I came home on Wednesday it was full,” Stewart said.

She had gotten used to seeing a dry paddock where water was supposed to be.

“It’s been dust storms and wind, and just shit for a couple of years,” she said.

“The dry gets you down, but seeing the water is a big boost; it’s awesome.

“I’m super excited, but I still feel for all the people who have missed out.”

Before the storm came over her property, Stewart said she had watched rainfall reports from nearby properties while her rain gauge remained dry.

“You are happy for them, but it can get you down,” she admitted.

“But knowing someone is getting rain gives you hope.

“When it finally rains at your own place you’re obviously happy, but you still feel a bit bad being excited knowing there are so many people who have missed the rain.

“If you’re lucky to be under a storm it’s great, but you can be 200 metres down the road and get nothing.”

Farmers, however, are quick to say a week of rain will not put an end to years of drought.

“This hasn’t solved all our problems, but it’s a start, and it has laid the dust and that is awesome,” Stewart said.

During the drought, the Hornick family at Wallumbilla spent weeks excavating their dried-up dam to be deeper in anticipation of eventual rain.

“We had been missing out on rain for so long,” Beverley Hornick said.

“The older generation of Wallumbilla tell me they can’t remember seeing that dam ever going dry.

“And to see water finally rushing in was just amazing. We feel really blessed.”

Signs of long-term effects

On Lynelle Urquhart’s property near Moonie, puddles of water have made for picturesque sunset photos.

“But there’s something deeply sad in those photos — where there should be leaves, there is sky,” she said.

“With little soaking rain to replace the groundwater over the past few years, the old ironbark trees look to be dead or dying.”

Urquhart said the ground was still “bone dry” below the top few centimetres.

“If those trees die it would impact the whole shade lines and ridge timber lines here for many decades,” she said.

“We still have one area more than half dead from the last huge drought in 1980.”

The Urquharts destocked their property during the height of the drought and have a total of two cows and their calves left.

“They didn’t fit in the truck,” Urquhart said.

“They’ll have a good feed of grass now but we are in no hurry to restock; we’ll let the country regenerate well.”

In the meantime, they are still counting their blessings and are thankful for the extra rainwater in their tanks.


Local News Matters
Copyright © 2024 InQueensland.
All rights reserved.
Privacy Policy