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Drought-stricken outback Queensland celebrates after downpour brings hope for 'strong wet season'

Thursday November 11, 2021 - 22:42 AEDT

Residents in outback Queensland are celebrating as storms bring heavy rain to drought-stricken towns across the state. 


On the fringe of the Simpson Desert, Birdsville received 27 millimetres ? the highest November falls there in 22 years.


In the Channel Country, the township of Bedourie received close to 100 millimetres in two days.


Sandringham Station between Bedourie and Boulia recorded 110mm in 48 hours.


"A big soaking like this will set this country up really well, fill all the waterholes," manager Greg Woods said.


"It's usually in the new year when we're getting the storms, when the cyclones come and stir it up."


The above-average downpours have lifted hopes for a "strong wet season", Boulia Shire Council Mayor Rick Britton said.


"We've been drought-declared since 2013. If you go back into the history books, if you get storms in November it's usually a sign that you've got a pretty strong wet season coming up," he said.


"Everyone knows if you can hear rain on a corrugated roof the stress levels disappear.


"So spirits in Boulia are pretty high at the moment and I think that they had 32mm in town.


"The Burke River at Boulia is running at the moment and when there's water in it, it just lifts everyone's spirits in the Channel Country."


Graziers near the central west town of Tambo also rejoiced at the rare sight of rain.


At least 51.8mm fell at Louise Martin's property, Macfarlane, in 12 hours over Wednesday and Thursday.


She said the wet "could not have come soon enough" for the region that had also been drought-declared since 2013.


"We've been on the brink of a disaster, really. The country is just awful," Ms Martin said.


"It's very exciting to see the creek running and the dam full."


And it was not just the human residents who relished the deluge.


"The frogs and the nature is deafening after rainfall!" Ms Martin said.


"I wonder where they've all come from because they're there and they're shouting from the rooftops too."


Katrina Paine from Daintree near Winton said the November weather was unrecognisable compared to recent years.


Nearly 60mm had fallen during six rainfall events since the start of the month.


"We just haven't had that sort of [November] rain probably since 2010," Ms Paine said.


"We've had a lot of years recently where it's been a one-week wet season or a one-event wet season.


"It would be nice to think that this is the start of a wet season that's spread out over a few months."


Why all the rain?


Meteorologist Jonathan How attributed the drenching to several factors.


One is a tropical air mass that has been sitting over central and western Australia, fed by warm waters around Indonesia.


"We've been drip-fed this tropical moisture from north of the country. It's been sitting there and kind of brewing away nicely," he said.


That moist air is now moving south and combining with unstable conditions enhanced by an upper-level trough.


Sunny skies ahead but strong wet season confirmed


While the skies were expected to clear over the weekend, the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) confirmed the region was in for a strong wet season.


"It is likely that the first rains of the northern wet season will arrive earlier than normal for much of northern Australia," BOM senior climatologist Greg Browning said in the bureau's annual Severe Weather Outlook, released in October.


"Warm waters to the north of the continent and the sea surface temperature patterns across the tropical Pacific and Indian Oceans are driving our outlook towards more rainfall for eastern and northern Australia," he said.







- ABC

© ABC 2021

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