A rural town in Australia has been taken over by a fast-growing tumbleweed known, for fairly understandable reasons, as “hairy panic.” The plant has inundated dozens of residents’ houses, building up in piles against homes, blocking doors, windows and garages. There is so much of the stuff that some report that the hairy panic has reached as high as their roofs, and residents are spending hours clearing the tumbleweed away only for it to reappear again the next day.
Surrounding the houses and swamping everything left outside, the extraordinary occurrence has become a nuisance to the residents of Wangaratta, Victoria. “It's physically draining and mentally more draining,” Pam Twitchett, who lives in the town, told Prime7 News Albury. The Sisyphean task of clearing the plants away is taking hours, only for another gust of wind to roll more of the tumbleweed back into town.
The plant, officially called Panicum effusum, is a native to the grasslands of central Australia. Mass build-ups of the hairy panic happen almost every year, though this time it has been particularly bad. Dry weather, combined with a farmer's field on the edge of town that has been allowed to go to fallow, has been blamed for the sudden inundation of the plant, with the residents calling on the council to do something about it.
The bizarre happenings were brought to the world’s attention after a local, Matt Thewlis, posted several pictures of the unusual situation on Facebook, writing: “Hope the person who owns the out of control paddocks in our area gets notified to do something because this is a joke and the whole estate is sick of it! … ask yourself this would you put up with this every day?”
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Thewlis was also trying to get the attention of the local council, saying that the hairy panic is a fire risk and should be controlled. But it seems that the council doesn't agree, and has released a statement saying that “fire prevention notices” are issued to land-holders where there are problems such as long grass and piles of dead branches, but that the hairy panic does not fall into this category. They’ve stated that there isn’t really much they can do about it, but will be sending street sweepers in an attempt to reduce the burden.
Feeding it to animals such as sheep has also been ruled out, as if they eat too much of the hairy panic, it can lead to a condition known as “yellow big-head,” which results in the blistering of hairless patches of skin. All residents can do for the time being is continue to keep bagging it up and throwing it out, ad infinitum.