Blast from past: Downs under dust cloud

The dust storm that hit in September 2009.
The dust storm that hit in September 2009. Cas Garvey

The following story was published on Thursday, September 24, 2009:

LOCH LOMOND grain farmer Ross Boal reckons yesterday's dust storm was "one of the worst I've ever seen".

"I've been farming for over 50 years; it's not very pleasant," Mr Boal said.

The farmer said he noticed the thick red haze just after 7am yesterday, with it quickly becoming more widespread as it moved across the Southern Downs and Granite Belt.

The gusty weather wasn't all bad news for the region's farmers who were doing a bit of hard yakka.

"I've been fencing all day so the wind was actually nice to work in," Freestone farmer Norman Payne laughed.

Despite scientists warning of more dust storms to come, it is still unclear just how possible further wild weather will affect those on the Southern Downs and Granite Belt.

A red haze over the Southern Downs in September 2009.
A red haze over the Southern Downs in September 2009. Cas Garvey

Warwick Hospital director of nursing Megan O'Shannessy said there were "more than usual" patients admitted with breathing difficulties yesterday due to the dust storm.

"There was nobody with severe problems and every patient was treated locally with no transfers," Ms O'Shannessy said.

Queensland Ambulance Service assistant commissioner Leo McNamara said there had been an increase in people state-wide dialling 000, especially from people with asthma and other lung conditions.

"There's certainly been a pronounced increase in asthmatics (yesterday) morning," he said.

"It's across the board from children to elderly folk. Fortunately they've contacted us early and have been utilising their medications."

The fire weather warning is still current for the Darling Downs and Granite Belt areas with drier cooler conditions expected today, the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service said late yesterday.

Freak dust storm.
Freak dust storm. Cas Garvey

Fire dangers will still reach very high today and tomorrow and will increase to extreme during the weekend with the dust storm expecting to clear today.

Bushfire activity in the Main Range National Park to the east of Warwick remained under control late yesterday according to fire authorities.

Two fire zones were detected on Sunday in the Emu Vale and Gambubul areas, with a Queensland Fire and Rescue Service spokeswoman saying last night back burning operations were now confined to an area closer to Swanfels.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service and rural fire crews are expected to continue maintaining control lines and monitoring of the fire today and water-bombing is possible if visibility improves.



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