Downpours produce best rainfall in almost a year in some areas as Newcastle and Hunter Valley are drenched

REVIVAL: Hunter Wetlands Centre chief executive Dr Stuart Blanch takes a walk through ponds that had been bone dry before rain fell on Sunday and Monday. Picture: Simone De Peak
REVIVAL: Hunter Wetlands Centre chief executive Dr Stuart Blanch takes a walk through ponds that had been bone dry before rain fell on Sunday and Monday. Picture: Simone De Peak

Upper Hunter farmers have described the region’s 24-hour downpour of rain as “marvellous”, putting “smiles on some faces” while they wait for follow-up rain.

Falls across the Hunter produced a regional average of 40 to 60mm across Sunday and Monday according to the Bureau of Meteorology, including the best rain around Scone in close to a year. 

Properties at Merriwa received the heaviest falls with 89mm recorded at the Merriwa (Mar-Lea) rainfall station in the 24-hour period to 9am Monday. 

Scone stock agent Peter MacCullum stopped short of saying the drought had broken, but said the rainfall had “changed things”. 

His view was supported by Merriwa farmer Ron Campbell, whose property ‘Woodlands’ received 52mm on one side of the land and 38mm on the other. 

“It’s marvellous,” Mr Campbell said. “We had 52mm here, that’s very, very good – it’s change. It doesn’t grow instant feed, but gives you the prospects of getting some feed away.

RELIEF: Rain water at 'Yarramac' near Scone on Monday. The rain was a welcome sight. Picture: Peter MacCallum.

RELIEF: Rain water at 'Yarramac' near Scone on Monday. The rain was a welcome sight. Picture: Peter MacCallum.

“These are the sorts of rains we want and then the follow up.

“This is only sufficient to keep going provided we get follow-up rain. There’s very little sub-soil moisture and for growing crops, that’s what you want. But still, we don’t complain; it’s been very, very good.” 

Eastern parts of the Hunter enjoyed upwards of 50mm of rain with the highest coastal readings of 66mm at Merewether and Nelson Bay. At Shortland, Hunter Wetlands Centre received a vital boost to the conservation area’s ecosystem.

“It’s an absolute relief to the wetlands, which have been bone-dry for three months,” chief executive officer Dr Stuart Blanch said. “Wetlands need to dry now and again, but two long, dry and hot summers in a row took their toll.” 

SOAKED: A car travels through a deep puddle in Lambton after the Hunter's downpour of rain on Monday. The rain was a much-needed relief for farmers in the Upper Hunter with the biggest falls at Merriwa. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers.

SOAKED: A car travels through a deep puddle in Lambton after the Hunter's downpour of rain on Monday. The rain was a much-needed relief for farmers in the Upper Hunter with the biggest falls at Merriwa. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers.

Ponds at the wetlands had dried to cracked mud beds but the rain has brought life back. “We’ve seen hundreds of birds fly back in just today,” Dr Blanch said.

“Birds are flying back; turtles, eels, insects, fish eggs are coming out of the mud. It’s instant life.”

Bureau forecaster Emily McVeigh said: “We haven’t seen anything like this for a while across NSW.” 

“In the Hunter, it’s been pretty widespread significant falls … however, it’s been isolated and a bit hit-and-miss with higher totals.”

In an indication of the variance, while Merriwa (Mar-Lea) station had 89mm, nearby Merriwa (Roscommon) station had 34mm. Closer to Scone, Kars Springs recorded 38mm along with Stoney Creek which had 36mm.

Readings at Scone averaged 10 to 20mm with Scone Airport recording 12mm of rain, eclipsing the total rainfall from February 1 to February 25 of 11.2mm.

Scone stock agent Peter MacCallum said he expected listed stock sales would fall this week as farmers held onto their livestock in anticipation of further rain.  

Rain was expected to clear overnight on Monday evening but more is expected on the weekend.

The bureau’s autumn outlook indicates a 50 to 60 per cent chance that rainfall will exceed median figures. 

“For the Hunter, we’re expecting a generally wetter than average March to May period,” Ms McVeigh said. “There’s a slightly higher chance of getting higher-than-average rainfall.”