Snake alert! Hazards with the big wet

Lots of big surprises as top rain delivers to Western Division

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Needing a drink or shy? A massive mulga snake hangs off a branch in a lake that suddenly formed after 40mm was recorded at Langawirra station north-east of Broken Hill. Photo by Lachlan Gall.

Needing a drink or shy? A massive mulga snake hangs off a branch in a lake that suddenly formed after 40mm was recorded at Langawirra station north-east of Broken Hill. Photo by Lachlan Gall.

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Navigating hazards by boat in a land more used to dust

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Station owners in the Western Division are coming to terms with a dramatically changed landscape after soaking rain on the weekend.

Not only has it ended partially almost four years of drought for some, it's thrown up some unlikely encounters.

It's not common station owner Lachlan Gall gets out on a boat on his family's property Langawirra, but the incredible novelty of seeing a large area of his property under water north-east of Broken Hill, also made for an interesting tour.

Apart from rescuing goats off an impromptu island, he came across a large mulga snake hanging from a tree in the middle of a lake.

With kids on board the boat, he wasn't keen to see if the snake needed a lift, but vowed to go back later to see if it was stuck or something. (Good idea to steer clear, as mulga snakes deliver the most venom of any snake in the world in one bite).

The drought-hit landscape has needed a good rain for almost four years so perhaps the snake was hanging out for a drink!

The rain has been an incredible gamechanger for many in the Far West. And with the announcement on Tuesday that South Australia will reopen its border to NSW on Thursday, it's been a week of good news for people in the Western Division.

Lachlan Gall said finally the rain had been widespread in the far west.

"It is often said that "it takes a flood to end a drought", and for many stations in the extreme far west of NSW and adjacent areas of northeast SA that drought breaking flood arrived with heavy rain falling across the region on Saturday. Widespread falls of 20 to 50 mm were recorded across areas that had missed out on rain earlier in the year and not seen effective rainfall since September 2016, with some totals in excess of 70mm," he said.

"The rain event was also a priceless follow-up for those stations lucky enough to receive rain earlier in the year, but were seeing pastures dry off as a result of a dry winter and warm start to spring.

"Pastoralist Andy Treloar recorded 71mm at Tikalina Station, 100 kms west of Broken Hill, which saw the creek past his homestead run at its highest level since the 1997 northeast SA floods.

Where the rain fell on the weekend. A huge dousing for the struggling Western Division.

Where the rain fell on the weekend. A huge dousing for the struggling Western Division.

"At Langawirra we recorded 43.2mm on Saturday afternoon, which was our highest single day rainfall event since January 2015. Heavier rain further west saw the creeks that drain into Langawirra run at their highest levels since 2010.

"For those pastoralists that were still waiting for rain to put a dent in record drought conditions in the far west of NSW and north east SA Saturday's storms were a massive relief and gives them hope that the worst is over, especially if forecast wetter than average conditions delivers follow up rain to keep pastures going.

"This rain event is also a real confidence booster for far west pastoralists that saw a break in drought conditions earlier in the year and are in the process of rebuilding their livestock numbers. Pasture growth will benefit producers who have purchased restockers or brought livestock back from agistment.

"Whilst some stations badly need a follow up rain very soon, this rain event is a game changer for many pastoralists. Going forward, pastoralists are quietly hopeful that forecast wetter-that-average conditions brings more rain across the outback before the end of the year, which would potentially put an end to the record 2016 drought."

Postscript: the mulga snake is also known as the King Brown, although by genus it is more related to the black snake. It can deliver 150mg of venom in one bite, the most of any snake in the world.

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