A cattle farmer has revealed he's feeling a small ray of hope ahead of this summer's worrying bushfire predictions after heavy rainfall brought some relief to the region.
The farmer narrowly avoided losing his Cobargo farm in the Black Summer bushfires of 2019-20 and had another near-miss in October. He previously told Yahoo News that he felt like “history was repeating itself” as experts predicted a hot and dry summer with every Aussie state in the firing line for summer bushfires.
'No more water worries' for NSW South Coast farmers
While an increased bushfire outlook for eastern Australia remains, forecasts of a drier than average summer have eased with recent rain, and images from Leahy's farm reflect the changed conditions.
The first image (above left), taken on November 17 shows a barren, brown landscape with the water levels in the dam dwindling. In the second picture (above right), taken on November 29, the dam is completely topped up with the land surrounding looking lush and green.
“Believe it or not we have now had a flood and a big rain event,” Leahy excitedly told Yahoo News Australia.
The downpour means Leahy no longer needs to fork out money to hand-feed his cattle. “[I’m] happy that I will now have feed for the cattle and no more water worries,” he said, adding he is also “not happy I have flood-damaged fencing to deal with".
With water storage on the farm topped up, Leahy will be better placed to manage the predicted hot summer ahead. He said that after a depressed market in recent months, cattle prices are on the way back up.
Hot summer to follow dry spring
The glimmer of hope comes as bushfire experts warned on Thursday of a mainly ‘hot and dry’ summer ahead across the country. Climate Council Director of Research Simon Bradshaw said it’s a ‘mathematical certainty’ that 2023 will be the “hottest year on record.”
Australia had experienced “record-breaking dry conditions and warmer than average temperatures during early spring,” according to the AFAC summer bushfire outlook as the El Nino weather system sets in.
While the Bureau of Meteorology’s summer forecast predicts below-average rainfall for much of the tropics and Western Australia, recent rain has dampened concerns of a drier-than-average summer for Eastern states, a welcome relief for many Aussies.
Widespread and torrential rainfall in recent years has led to significant grass growth and increased the flammability of fuel loads, including in areas that were burnt in the catastrophic Black Summer bushfires.
While firefighters and scientists had said we “shouldn't have to worry” about the areas that burned during Black Summer for several years, this advice has now changed. Bermagui, a town close to where Leahy’s Cobargo farm is, recently burned in September.
“They should have done more burning off in winter,” he says. “All you can do is be prepared as best you can.’
Love Australia's weird and wonderful environment? Get our new weekly newsletter showcasing the week’s best stories.