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Monumental hail storm hits Coonamble farmers on cusp of first harvest after three years of drought

By Jessie Davies and Lucy Thackray, Monday October 26, 2020 - 16:45 EDT
ABC image
Three generations of the Cullen family inspect their damaged crops at Coonamble. - ABC

Hail has slashed crops and dashed some farmers' hopes for a bumper harvest in the Central West region of New South Wales.



Some crops in Coonamble were destroyed on the weekend by a hailstorm while other paddocks in the western region have been waterlogged from heavy falls.

Tom Cullen, who farms near Coonamble, said the damage was "heartbreaking".

"It was a monumental weather event," he said.

"Hail is basically the worst thing that can happen at harvest because the force of it can slash plants and knock the grain out of the head.

"The damage we've sustained is unbelievable."



The Cullens' property received 95 millimetres of rain last week in total.

Today, he and his farming partner, his mum Anne, toured sodden paddocks littered with spilt grain.

Their crops were insured but Mr Cullen said the damage sustained was a kick in the guts after three tough years of drought.

"Now we need to get [the crops] assessed and the insurance companies will take it from there," he said.

"Having a crop like this would have been a huge plus for us, so seeing it damaged now by these storms is very heartbreaking.

"It's a kick in the guts but from what I've learnt we've just got to work with the environment and Mother Nature."



More rain on the way

Local harvest contractors have also been affected by the recent rain.

Robert Thomas runs an agriculture machinery hire business in Coonamble and said it was going to be a while before his machines can get moving again.

"Getting on the paddocks is going to be the hardest thing now, we need a month of fine weather — and I mean fine weather," Mr Thomas said.

Some farmers in the region were hopeful of getting back onto sodden paddocks to continue harvest.



But Bureau of Meteorology forecaster David Wilke said farmers should expect unsettled conditions for the rest of the week.

"On Wednesday thunderstorm activity is ramping up and the next rainfall event for the western part of the state may be Friday or Saturday," Mr Wilke said.

Hail caps a wet week

Thunderstorms were widespread across the state on the weekend but there were only isolated patches of hail.

Mr Wilke said some parts of the state were saturated from heavy rainfall last week.



In the past seven days, Scone received 190mm, Nundle received 149mm and Parkes had 67mm.

Further south, at Tumbarumba, 89mm fell in the past week which led to some flash flooding.


- ABC

© ABC 2020

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