Brace for ex­treme weather

KEEP­ING IT NEIL

Kalgoorlie Miner - - OPINION - Boris Paster­nak, Rus­sian au­thor (1890-1960). Neil Watkin­son Neil Watkin­son is a se­nior jour­nal­ist at the Kal­go­or­lie Miner.

The clear blue sky was back over Kal­go­or­lie-Boul­der yes­ter­day, but is Satur­day’s hail storm a sign of things to come?

I must ad­mit to be­ing a bit con­cerned at the in­ten­sity of the hail­stones as they crashed into my roof, and was re­lieved they stopped hurtling down be­fore any se­ri­ous dam­age was done.

How­ever, if the storm had con­tin­ued for an­other 10-15 min­utes, then the con­se­quences for the city could have been much more sig­nif­i­cant.

As a re­minder of what might have been, think back al­most a year ago to the storm which cut power to parts of the Gold­fields for sev­eral days af­ter winds of up to 107km/h blew thou­sands of trees onto homes and cars, took roofs off houses, and knocked down over­head pow­er­lines.

The pow­er­line prob­lem led to a build­ing burn­ing down on the cor­ner of Mar­i­tana and Collins streets in Kal­go­or­lie-Boul­der.

There was also se­ri­ous dam­age done at Kam­balda from “ten­nis ball-sized” hail­stones, and I un­der­stand re­pair work is still be­ing car­ried out there now.

Then think back a lit­tle fur­ther still to the heavy rain of Fe­bru­ary last year, which led to flash flood­ing in­un­dat­ing many prop­er­ties.

I have lived in Kal­go­or­lie-Boul­der for only a cou­ple of years, so do not know if these ex­treme weather events are nor­mal, and have oc­curred often in the past, or whether they are part of a new sit­u­a­tion pos­si­bly in­flu­enced by global warm­ing.

How­ever, what the three ex­treme events high­lighted here do sug­gest is that we can ex­pect more bat­ter­ings in the fu­ture.

And there is only so much the au­thor­i­ties can do to re­duce the im­pact.

It is good to see the City of Kal­go­or­lie-Boul­der ad­dress­ing the stormwa­ter is­sue with its $4.2 mil­lion, five-year up­grade plan.

But if the city re­ceived, say, 100mm of rain in 24 or 48 hours, such im­prove­ments might not cope with the sit­u­a­tion.

As a re­port to a re­cent coun­cil meet­ing high­lighted, part of the prob­lem is the city is built on mostly clay sub­soils that are rel­a­tively im­per­me­able, thereby re­duc­ing the ab­sorp­tion rate of rain­fall and in­creas­ing run-off.

Satur­day’s hail­storm also saw some busi­nesses lose power, high­light­ing the on­go­ing vul­ner­a­bil­ity of the city’s en­ergy se­cu­rity — shown dur­ing last Novem­ber’s storm, when the lack of power for sev­eral days saw a rush on fuel and food sup­plies.

Ear­lier this year the State Gov­ern­ment an­nounced it would put $500,000 into de­vel­op­ing a pro­posal to in­tro­duce a net­work of rooftop so­lar pan­els and back­yard stor­age bat­ter­ies in Kal­go­or­lie-Boul­der while it in­ves­ti­gated a big­ger so­lar ther­mal plant that could pro­vide as much as 150MW of power and feed elec­tric­ity to other States.

How­ever, such plans will not come to fruition in the short­term. So be­ware: weather which desta­bilises life in the Gold­fields may well be­come a more reg­u­lar fact of life in the fu­ture. Collins Dic­tio­nary says we are hear­ing a lot more of “sin­gle-use.”

The ad­jec­tive, ap­plied to dis­pos­able plas­tic prod­ucts, has been named the dic­tio­nary’s 2018 word of the year.

Collins says use of the term has risen four­fold since 2013, as pol­lu­tion climbs the po­lit­i­cal agenda.

“MeToo” also makes the list, which was re­leased yes­ter­day.

The dic­tio­nary says the cam­paign against sex­ual ha­rass­ment and abuse has be­come part of the lan­guage in phrases such as “the MeToo era” and “MeToo mo­ment”.

The 2017 word of the year was “fake news”.

Dam­age such as this was wide­spread across Kal­go­or­lie-Boul­der fol­low­ing last year’s Novem­ber 18 storm.

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