Heat and Fire on the Southern Downs

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
– Anne of Green Gables by L.M.Montgomery

I was in Stanthorpe yesterday for the funeral of a friend’s sister. The deceased woman had lived in Stanthorpe for many years and had done a lot of voluntary work for the Rural Fire Brigade in that town. Showing appreciation the Stanthorpe ‘Firies’ gave her a guard of honour; many looked liked they had come from fighting a fire that morning. Her husband had been one of them when he was still alive. It was a touching tribute at a time when record temperatures and high fire danger hang over the town. The church was packed and at the wake afterwards there was much talk of what the future holds for the fruit growers, vintners and farmers in the district. Looking out from the church you could see where a recent fire had raced up the hill behind leaving granite, black trees and brown leaves.

Stanthorpe‘s Storm King Dam is nearly empty at 14%; there are heavy restrictions on water use in place. Water is being trucked from Warwick which is also running short of water (Leslie Dam is at 5% and Connolly at 30%. Farmers are de-stocking their properties because of lack of water. Stanthorpe is very dry but country at the top of the Head above Carney’s Creek still has some water in the dams. The proposed $85M Emu Swamp Dam is not viable, there is simply no water until the drought breaks. This will be the first major dam to be built in Queensland since the Wyralong Dam (2011) and Paradise Dam (2005).

Leslie Dam supplies Warwick drinking water for Warwick, Allora and Yangan.  Leslie Dam is owned and managed by Sunwater.
Connolly Dam is used at Council’s discretion to supplement drinking water supplies.
Storm King Dam is the sole supply for Stanthorpe’s urban supply network

It was 40 degrees coming down the range from Toowoomba at 4.30 pm on Wednesday 20 November! Storing water in dams with high surface evaporation in these temperatures no longer seems feasible. Action needs to be taken to conserve water by decreasing evaporation.

There was a very smokey haze from fires at Crows Nest north of Toowoomba and North Branch on the Southern Downs near Maryvale. This left a pall of smoke across the Darling Downs from Dawn till Dusk with a red sun at 5pm still high in the sky.

Cunningham’s Gap road is closed for fear of burnt trees and rocks falling. Engineers are checking stability … this may take as long as 10 days.

There will be consequences from all this.

Ian Curr
20-21 November 2019

One response to “Heat and Fire on the Southern Downs

  1. 'The river's gone ... and it's not fair'


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