Longreach Drought Stretches Despite Rainfall

05/11/2015 10:54 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:50 PM AEST
Outback Pics/Debbie Scott

The drought-stricken central Queensland town of Longreach was just bucketed with its highest rainfall since March, but even a powerful downpour barely made a dent in the dry spell strangling the region.

The Huffington Post Australia visited Longreach in September, experiencing firsthand the devastation that almost four years of drought had wrought on the proud and rich farming country; normally bubbling rivers reduced to dusty cracked creek beds, farming families with decades of history on the land forced to sell their entire stock, parched earth and dead scrub as far as the eye could see.

Since May, 33.6mm rain has fallen in the region. Two-thirds of that came in a two-day spell in June. On Sunday, however, Longreach was drenched with 19.6 mm of rain -- the biggest single-day fall since March and the second-biggest of 2015. Once more, hopes were piqued slightly. Could the drought have finally, finally broken?

No, says lifelong Longreach resident, Rosemary Champion. She said her cattle property Longway, just minutes out of the town centre, received barely a drizzle.

"We didn't get any, but it might be a breaking of the cycle. It's still cloudy today," she told The Huffington Post Australia.

Champion said only certain parts of Longreach received anywhere near the reported rainfall, but that out in the country, they all root for each other. Case in point: Barcaldine, just 100 kilometres east of Longreach, was bucketed with a staggering, record-breaking 156 mm of rain between Saturday and Sunday. Far from jealous or envious, she said the results proved rain was around, and that Longreach's turn was only a matter of time.


Rosemary Champion, with husband Warwick

"Maybe we’ve broken the spell. That rain at Barcaldine was ridiculous, just ridiculous. It's been really encouraging. We all think we’re the centre of the universe and should get it first, but the forecast isn't too bad right now," Champion said.

"That rain is encouraging, we've just got to believe that. So much rain in November is extraordinary."

Despite missing the bulk of the rain so far, Champion said her property had received its own glimmer of hope; somehow, a dam on their property has filled up.

"We have a dam we call the Miracle Dam. It still had water in it two years after it last rained. This is like divine intervention; we had 4mm, which doesn't hit the ground, about two kilometres away but somehow it half-filled the dam," she said.


The Champions' stock of Santa Gertrudis cattle

"We don't know how it happened, we didn't see it. It's a lot better sign than this time last year."

The Bureau of Meteorology's forecast holds some hope for Longreach. The Bureau predicts a 70 percent chance of rain on Thursday and a 50 percent chance of rain on Wednesday. Champion, however, doesn't hold much store in the forecasters.

"We get our blinkers on when you hear about the climate people, they're so wrong so often. They predict an El Nino then they get nine inches at Barcaldine," she said.

"Every day is getting closer to rain. We said that last year, but people just have to make decisions and see how they go. It's about everyone making tough decisions at the moment, because people have no stock left."

"If it starts raining now it won't put bread on the table but it'll give people hope. It needs to keep raining, not just a big downpour now and none until April. Having that extraordinary rain somewhere shows it can actually happen. For all of us, it has given us some hope. It can't give everyone a drink, but the fact someone got it is hugely encouraging. It will give people hope; there's no life without water and you can't buy rain."

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