SPRING’S recent arrival in Bathurst will have been welcomed by a city that has endured a traditional testing winter.
It’s not the calendar that tells Bathurstians that the worst of the weather is over, but the temperature gauge.
And the days that have pushed past 20 degrees as September has rolled on have been a tangible sign that the season is changing and the most brutal of the cold weather can be farewelled for another nine months.
Mixed in with this year’s celebration of the coming of spring, however, must be some disquiet.
It’s been a dry winter by Central Tablelands standards, which has followed a dry first half of the year, and the trend is yet to show any signs of changing.
With each month, Bathurst has fallen further and further behind on its average rainfall, racking up falls from showers or storms here and there but nothing substantial to really start to wipe the deficit away.
The dry weather means Bathurst hasn’t even had the first month of spring to enjoy before the fire season officially kicks off.
This year, because of the relentlessly dry weather, Bathurst moved straight from the end of August to the fire danger period – an ominous sign if ever there was one.
Australia’s long, hot summers and temperature extremes can lead to desensitisation to fire authorities’ yearly warnings about the season ahead and the need to be vigilant.
It can be easy to treat those warnings in the same way as you treat the first magpie swoop of spring or the first frost of autumn – as a natural but harmless indication of the progression of the year.
But unless the weather trend for the Central Tablelands turns around quickly, this is looking like a particularly nasty fire season ahead – and that’s a message that is going to have to get through.
A lack of rain during winter is one thing, but a lack of rain in a dry district during spring and summer is another.
It was a mid-October day four years ago when the State Mine fire near Lithgow ignited, going on to destroy more than 50,000 hectares as it raged through the Blue Mountains.
Memories of that fire – and other blazes from recent years – will still be fresh on the Central Tablelands.
While the city’s rainfall deficit remains, so does the danger. If we’re unlucky, we might soon be wishing that winter never ended.