Rebecca recently posted about the tremendous dust storm that Broken Hill, western NSW, got in September 2009. While she was in the midst of it, we on the east coast 1500 kilometres (930 miles) away got a pretty impressive share of that topsoil. When I was a kid in country South Australia, we had our share of dust storms coming down from the desert to the north. I remember my mum shutting up the house whenever she saw the sky go brown, to keep out as much dust as possible. You could see a gigantic brown wall in the distance, coming fast. Afterwards, it was a sweep-fest.
I’d never experienced anything like that here before, though. The photos below show increasing dust in the air. We didn’t get the black-out Rebecca experienced in Broken Hill, but it was eerie nevertheless.
On a trip from the north coast of NSW to Adelaide, driving out through Dubbo in the midst of the long drought now broken, we’d seen farm paddocks turned to red dust and willy willies (whirlwinds) spiralling into the air from the road. The drought had turned productive agricultural land into desert – a reminder that farming is so vulnerable to lack of water, especially in Australia where there isn’t much water. We weren’t impressed to get to Victoria and discover that irrigation water was being spread profligately by sprinklers over road verges in Albury town in the middle of the day – spraying over bitumen in the heat, just to evaporate off. It was a stark contrast to what we’d just driven through. No wonder South Australians get annoyed at the lack of water they receive when it’s wasted like this before it gets to them.
You can read about the consequences of that dust storm for the marine environment here.