THE HAIRY PANIC
February 19, 2016 7:29 AM   Subscribe

The rural Australian city of Wangaratta is fighting a particularly heavy accumulation of fast-growing tumbleweed called "hairy panic." Residents have had to clear the several meter-high piles, which have reached roof levle, of hairy panic several times a day. A large vacuum could possibly combat the grass (Panicum effusum), which occurs throughout Australia and New Guinea and can grow up to 70 cm (2' 4") high.
posted by andrewesque (59 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
The council had received up to 30 complaints about the grass, though the spokesman clarified that not all were from residents affected by it. “Some people are just ringing to talk to us about it, which is fine.”
posted by Rock Steady at 7:37 AM on February 19, 2016 [18 favorites]


I see that the homeowner in the video is dealing with the problem by blowing the seeds of the grass in as many directions as possible.
posted by clawsoon at 7:42 AM on February 19, 2016 [15 favorites]


It's the haypocalypse.

This is crazy. My hayfever is acting up just looking at the pictures.

Locals have used leaf blowers to clear the enormous piles of hairy panic from their houses

I'm sure the neighbours of said locals are thrilled with that solution.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:44 AM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


This is also what I call the period of my life when I first started growing back fur.
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:46 AM on February 19, 2016 [12 favorites]


the Country Fire Authority has advised that the fire risk of the grass is “relatively low”.

It's piles of dry grass blowing around, how can the fire risk be low?
posted by corvine at 7:47 AM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


This picture right here: Stephen King's The Grass.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:48 AM on February 19, 2016 [9 favorites]


I thought that Hairy Panic was the most perfectly Australian name for this kind of thing, but then I got to Yellow Big Head (link includes pictures of sickly sheep).
posted by sparklemotion at 7:59 AM on February 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


I wouldn't be able to stop myself from lighting a match. The resulting FWOOOOOM would make me giggle like the Trashcan Man.
posted by sanka at 8:01 AM on February 19, 2016 [17 favorites]


Further evidence that this supposed "Australia" continent is an elaborate practical joke on the rest of us.
posted by Wretch729 at 8:01 AM on February 19, 2016 [14 favorites]


I wouldn't be able to stop myself from lighting a match.

Weak substitute, but here you go: burning poplar fuzz.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:03 AM on February 19, 2016 [10 favorites]


Looks like that stuff would make some pretty good adobe.
posted by yesster at 8:05 AM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


‘Today was a bad day to come home to this.’
I'm curious about what is a GOOD day to come home to 6' of grass piled up outside your windows.
posted by jeather at 8:06 AM on February 19, 2016 [11 favorites]


Weak substitute, but here you go: burning poplar fuzz.

That's pretty awesome.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:07 AM on February 19, 2016


They're lucky, American tumbleweeds (which are actually Russian) are violently flammable.
posted by Bee'sWing at 8:08 AM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Is this today's Donald Trump thread?
posted by clawsoon at 8:08 AM on February 19, 2016 [12 favorites]


corvine: "It's piles of dry grass blowing around, how can the fire risk be low?"

"Australian Low"
posted by boo_radley at 8:09 AM on February 19, 2016 [26 favorites]


They look so soft and fuzzy!

They're lucky, American tumbleweeds (which are actually Russian) are violently flammable.

And covered in sharp points. DO NOT HUG SOUTHWESTERN TUMBLEWEEDS - THEY WILL CUT YOU.

Luckily, they don't grow as agressively as these Aussies, but when conditions are right, they will swarm and try to take over a town.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:11 AM on February 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


I bet there is some sort of non-native toad they could bring in that would eat this grass right up, what could go wrong?
posted by ill3 at 8:20 AM on February 19, 2016 [19 favorites]


Well, for the kudzu invasion problem in some parts of the US, they use goats. But given that this sickens sheep, that might not work.

But if you're in Virginia, and you have a kudzu overgrowth problem, you can call...

Goat Busters.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:28 AM on February 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


I'm curious about what is a GOOD day to come home to 6' of grass piled up outside your windows.

The young Devonian once lived in the middle of a row of three cottages, which had a shared walled garden. The wall was a good 8' tall, and no other houses overlooked it.

The neighbour to the left was one of the most consummate potheads it is possible to imagine. Many tales could be told, but the one that matters for this derail is she grew her own 'Kenyan Ganja', which went up, not out (the Garden of Eden had nothing on this place when it came to walking in the cool of the evening). When it got within a few inches of the top of the wall, she harvested it.

There was a lot of it, so yes, TYD did come back a couple of times to find well over 6' of grass piled up outside the back windows, and it surely was a good day when it happened.

(Plenty of hairy panics too, when she got convinced the local plod were staking the place out)
posted by Devonian at 8:30 AM on February 19, 2016 [12 favorites]


(and Mandolin, that is one unfortunate URL)
posted by Devonian at 8:33 AM on February 19, 2016 [8 favorites]


Given that's just a whole bunch of tiny tumbleweeds, for once I'm not impressed by Australia.

Now California tumbleweeds...a while ago I was on the 680, and saw cars frantically serving into other lanes. That's because the middle lane was completely taken up by a single tumbleweed the size of a car. No blower was going to move em that sucker.
posted by happyroach at 8:41 AM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


(and Mandolin, that is one unfortunate URL)

Had they spelled out Virginia, it would have also been unfortunate, but in an Iowa way.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:44 AM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Doesn't this grass need to be venomous to actually be considered Australian? I mean, this is obviously a massive inconvenience to those affected, but compared to the ways other Australian flora and fauna deliver very painful deaths in their bites and scratches, this seems like it isn't done evolving yet. Let's give this some more time before we really get all up in arms over it -- by which time it will have likely grown arms. And fangs.

Also, how long until this turns up in Florida as an exotic in some asshole's "native grass garden"?
posted by mosk at 8:52 AM on February 19, 2016 [6 favorites]


I wish there were more details about what led the city council to announce that huge 6 foot high piles of dry grass surrounding homes and businesses were somehow "low fire risk".
posted by poffin boffin at 9:05 AM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Um, people, this is a classic Outer Limits episode. Be very wary. The rocks are next!
posted by Splunge at 9:20 AM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


That burning poplar fuzz is amazing, mandolin conspiracy.

And they get their big chance after fires, right?

What a coincidence.
posted by jamjam at 9:29 AM on February 19, 2016


Hairy Panic! At The Disco
posted by me3dia at 9:39 AM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


So many epic band names in this thread. It's making my day.

The actual hairy panic? Get that shit away from me, you're making me sneeze out my brains.
posted by droplet at 9:39 AM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I say we find a way to compress and transport it, and deploy it as a weapon against the GOP.

Potential snafu: its resemblance to Donald Trump's hair may cause him to brand it as his own.
posted by a halcyon day at 9:56 AM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


my aussie pal just sent me a link with the subject: hairy panic down under.

which cracked me up, because apparently, I am still a sixth grader.
posted by j_curiouser at 10:04 AM on February 19, 2016 [15 favorites]


Potential snafu: its resemblance to Donald Trump's hair may cause him to brand it as his own.

Trumpbleweed? Trump Clump?
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:08 AM on February 19, 2016


I wish there were more details about what led the city council to announce that huge 6 foot high piles of dry grass surrounding homes and businesses were somehow "low fire risk".

The best explanation I have seen is that it will burn so quickly, like hair, that it won't have time to "catch", but I am not sure I believe it given now paranoid everyone is about bushfires.
posted by Mezentian at 10:12 AM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


If cattle eat it apparently they get something called "yellow big head".

I love how it sounds silly and sinister all at once.
posted by sio42 at 10:28 AM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Looks like it's tailor-made to be a natural murder weapon for someone with asthma like me.
posted by blucevalo at 10:28 AM on February 19, 2016


We'd have to change it to "orange big head" for Trump.
posted by lock sock and barrel at 10:35 AM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Cool. Turns out the next time I'm in despair over a heavy snowfall and unploughed streets in my neighbourhood, all I need to do to feel better is watch videos of houses buried in 12 foot high piles of hairy panic/tumbleweeds.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:41 AM on February 19, 2016


And covered in sharp points. DO NOT HUG SOUTHWESTERN TUMBLEWEEDS - THEY WILL CUT YOU.

One time I was riding a motorcycle around the Arizona/New Mexico border and giant mass of tumbleweeds came flying out from under a semi where they'd been trapped by the axle, right into me.

I'm really lucky I didn't wipe out, but I pulled over and my visor, windshield, jacket and hands were shredded all to hell. I stopped at a truck stop and bought like 40 band-aids and had a really unpleasant ride home.
posted by lumpenprole at 10:51 AM on February 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


A large vacuum could possibly combat the grass

James Taylor could help, if Art Garfunkel brings by his compressor. But I suppose Australians could care less about their resort town ways.
posted by Capt. Renault at 10:53 AM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Australia - where even the plants don't play around.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:09 AM on February 19, 2016


According to the UN: This species is used for the restoration of open-cast mines as it is a native grass that performs well on the soil at these sites.

So, they plant it deliberately.

And apparently it's good grazing fodder, until it flowers, and then:
Can cause photosensitisation (blistering of hairless or light-coloured areas) if eaten in large quantities or as a major proportion of the animals diet within 2-6 weeks after rain.

which I guess is Big Yellow Head.
posted by Mezentian at 11:14 AM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


So, Autralia is to nature as Japan is to culture.

So completely bizarre that whenever you think it can't get more bizarre you are proven wrong. Meanwhile the people living there don't even bat an eyelash.
posted by oddman at 11:17 AM on February 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


Somewhere, James Dyson sleeps fitfully, dreaming uncertain dreams of the vacuum to save Australia.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 11:49 AM on February 19, 2016 [8 favorites]


I'd laugh about this but I have a cat.
posted by srboisvert at 11:59 AM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm curious about what is a GOOD day to come home to 6' of grass piled up outside your windows.

April 20th.
posted by Etrigan at 12:46 PM on February 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


Wangaratta? Now that's a name I haven't heard since I was a kid and occasionally played an old board game which was supposedly about shipping goods across the globe, but usually just turned into the players doing full time forex trading (the game had a *lot* more money than old boring Monopoly).
posted by effbot at 1:01 PM on February 19, 2016


I just wanted to point out out that Nick Cave is from Wangaratta, and credits the 'misery' of growing up there as an inspiration.
posted by heatvision at 1:53 PM on February 19, 2016 [6 favorites]


Shades of my favourite New Yorker story -the invasion from outer space.
posted by scodger at 2:11 PM on February 19, 2016


Wangaratta?

Slowly I turned...step by step...inch by inch...
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:18 PM on February 19, 2016


Me, reading this post: oh, that looks like a mess, but at least it isn't American tumbleweed, aka Russian thistle, aka plant I am violently allergic to.

And then I watched flf's link... Cue hairy panic, indeed.
posted by nat at 6:02 PM on February 19, 2016


Wangaratta Wahine
posted by Thella at 7:30 PM on February 19, 2016


Yeah, my dad's a firefighter (a "firey" in the local tongue) and according to him this sort of thing burns like cellulose - fast, hot, and is over before it has a chance to set fire to anything explosive, like eucalypts. Doesn't really have a chance to make hot ash or cinders either, though you'd get lynched for even suggesting a burn in regional Victoria, not that I can blame them.

I'd have to be restrained from building a small drum fire and just hurling it in, rakeloads at a time. It's got up a treat.
posted by Jilder at 8:12 PM on February 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'd have to be restrained from building a small drum fire and just hurling it in, rakeloads at a time.

You'd be able to do it on a day without a fire ban, no?
But, if it takes hours to rake a property and clean it up (before it rolls on in again), I wonder how long the novelty would last.
posted by Mezentian at 8:18 PM on February 19, 2016


according to him this sort of thing burns like cellulose - fast, hot, and is over before it has a chance to set fire to anything explosive, like eucalypts.

I, for one, would not really want to be the householder who tests this theory on the eight foot drift of the stuff that's buried my home.
posted by flabdablet at 9:00 PM on February 19, 2016


"You'd be able to do it on a day without a fire ban, no?"

So, not in my lifetime, then.
posted by Jilder at 9:04 PM on February 19, 2016


I knew there must be a down side to Australia's restrictive gun laws.
posted by humanfont at 9:27 PM on February 19, 2016


"The rural Australian city..." Ahem.
posted by mollymillions at 7:20 PM on February 20, 2016


Common usage here. A rural city is a city in Ra-Ra Land (from "rural and regional Australia", meaning "anywhere outside the five capital cities in which most people live").
posted by flabdablet at 8:45 PM on February 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


Also, a city is a designation of a local government area, based on a population (of over 45K if memory serves), although Wiki says it's a "cathedral city of over 17,000 people", so is the seat of a bishop, and is the seat of the Rural City of Wangaratta, which " was formed in 1994 from the amalgamation of the City of Wangaratta, Shire of Wangaratta, Shire of Oxley, and parts of the United Shire of Beechworth, Shire of Benalla and Shire of Yarrawonga. When formed the municipality was originally called the Shire of Milawa, but a few months later, was renamed to its current name".

Although apparently there is no council, only commissioners.... so I think we can call this "Australia's Flint".
posted by Mezentian at 8:57 PM on February 20, 2016


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