The "Hairy Panic" Tumbleweed Flood in Australia Isn't Caused by Global Warming

It's not too uncommon, but this year is especially bad.

In the rural Australian city of Wangaratta, about 140 miles northeast of Melbourne, neighborhoods are drowning in tumbleweed floods.

The appropriately-named hairy panic tumbleweed is blanketing lawns, piling up around buildings, and even blocking doorways and windows. It’s accumulating as high as roofs in some places.

It is, however, only tumbleweed: All residents have to do to break up the clusters is just push it out with a leaf blower or a rake if they have the endurance. The problem? They have to do this several times a day.

Hairy panic — or Panicum effusum — is a short-lived perennial endemic to Australia. Outbreaks actually happen across the country every year, and there’s no reason to suspect they are explicitly caused by climate change or man-made weather trends.

Unfortunately, this year it’s exceptionally bad. Wangaratta has been experiencing a particularly dry season. Other plants, shrubs, and grasses died off, allowing the weed — which only needs the bare minimum of resources — to take hold and blossom.

There’s little the local council can do about the mess. The Guardian reports that a city representative told reporters, “The council has a very limited capacity to intervene, but we are attempting to work with residents and nearby farmers.”

Once you get past the insane aggravation, the tumbleweed is mostly harmless. It’s not dangerous to humans or pets, though livestock should avoid ingesting a ton of it.

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