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Stormy weather in Far West

Friday, 17th January, 2020

Zahli and Jake Finch enjoying a good splash in a Stephen’s Creek flowing with water on Wednesday afternoon. PICTURE: Luke Finch Zahli and Jake Finch enjoying a good splash in a Stephen’s Creek flowing with water on Wednesday afternoon. PICTURE: Luke Finch

By Callum Marshall

Wild weather hit the Far West on Wednesday afternoon and night as residents dealt with heavy winds, thunder, lightning and much needed rain.

Not too far out of Broken Hill, Stephen’s Creek was flowing with water on Wednesday as Kelly Finch took her kids out to enjoy a splash in the water alongside the family dogs.

“The little storm that we got was quite unexpected and once we saw that the creek was running - it was only quite low so pretty safe - we sort of took advantage,” she said. 

“Took the kids down and the pups and they just had an absolute ball running up and down through the water, playing.

“It was really beautiful to see actually.”

Despite the creek flowing with water on Wednesday, by yesterday afternoon the creek bed was dry again when the family returned.

“These creeks (are) not really designed to hold water. The water just runs through,” said Mrs Finch yesterday.

“But it is quite amazing to see that it was all under water last night and by this morning it’s dry like it never happened in a lot of spots of the creek.

“I think that the earth is so dry at the moment that it’s absorbing it too quickly. It’s like it never happened.

“(But) any water out here is a positive at the moment, and sometimes that puts that bit of moisture in the air. Fingers crossed we get some more.”

Head of Water Operations for Essential Water, Ross Berry, said that unfortunately they only received 7mm of rain at Stephen’s Creek and in the catchment.

“Most of the rain fell south and east of the Stephens Creek which is down stream of catchment area,” he said.

“Reservoirs have remained steady as the majority of the rain was soaked up by the dry ground.”

Elsewhere across the region, 15mm of rain was recorded at Menindee yesterday morning. The previous measurement was 2mm at 9am Wednesday morning.

Local Karen Page said the winds coming into the township had been very strong all day Wednesday.

“Then the dust came in and it didn’t look like there was any rain there at all but then out of the blue, bang, it just came down,” she said.

“So it was a bit of a shock actually when it started, and it came down quite heavy.

“It didn’t last too long. Maybe a half hour if that. 

“It was very welcome for our tanks, for us people that are not on the town mains water.”

She said the wind and lightning that came in was really scary.

“When it started coming down heavy I went out onto the veranda and I thought, ‘I’m going to sit out here and enjoy the rain,’” said Mrs Page.

“But the wind was so heavy that the rain was virtually coming sideways.

“That lightning was so close that I thought for a minute it might hit something.

“The thunder behind it really hurt my ears. You can’t really hear how loud the thunder was on (a) video (I took) but gee it was loud.

“It was really scary. But I appreciate every little bit (of rain) that we got.”

On water matters in Menindee, Mr Berry said engineers were investigating the possibility of gravity feeding Menindee from Stephen’s Creek.

“As Menindee’s water is still being supplied from a bore, Essential Water must comply with the appropriate legislation and regulations which require level three restrictions to remain in place,” he said. 

“Water levels in the Darling River will have to increase significantly before pumping can recommence.

“Essential Water’s engineers are investigating the possibility of gravity feeding Menindee from Stephens Creek, via the Menindee pipeline, as an emergency back-up water supply to the bore. 

“This will require some minor infrastructure changes as well as a significant amount of comprehensive testing before we are comfortable to consider this a viable back-up supply.

“Essential Water will not compromise our commitment to provide safe, secure and reliable water to our customers.”

Further north across the region, White Cliffs was also battered with heavy winds and lightning on Wednesday.

Manager of the White Cliffs Hotel Nicole Elliott said the winds started off mild before picking up quickly as a dust storm passed around the town.

“The dust storm actually went around us. So we’re all sitting out in the street watching the dust storm go around us,” she said.

“Then the winds suddenly changed and brought the dust storm back right on us in matter of seconds. It was really eerie. 

“The temperature dropped by about 10 degrees.

“And the lightning picked up. We had sheet lightning out to the far west of us and then we had forked lightning very close to the town of White Cliffs.

“And then down came the rain. 

“It was very quick, very sudden and it was very welcomed.

“As soon as it started raining, we’re all out in it, the whole lot of us. And the kids were all laying on the roads, playing in the puddles.”

She said that while it hadn’t been the most intense storm in the town recently, it had certainly been the strangest. 

“This was probably the weirdest,” said Mrs Elliott.

“We watched the dust storm go all the way around us and then saw the dust clouds change and come and start heading directly at us.

“It was very bizarre the way the wind changed.”

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