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Wednesday, 26 DEC 2001

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Bushfire crisis continues in NSW
Heatwave contracts to Queensland
Storm, complete with waterspout, forces retirements in Sydney-Hobart yacht race
Wintry weather continues in Tas, southern Vic
Sydney was surrounded by fire today as more than 4,000 firefighters battled over 100 blazes to the city's south, southwest, north and in the Shoalhaven. Over 700km of fire front existed across the state at the start of the day. With many fires on the city's outskirts, the Sydney basin remained shrouded in smoke haze for the second day, and ash and partly burnt leaves rained down on inner city suburbs. In today's developments:
  • Firefighters' main concern was a band of fire running from Campbelltown east to the coast. It was this firefront that caused damage to the Warragamba/Silverdale area yesterday as it sped 60km in 6 hours from the lower Blue Mountains to near the coast around Helensburgh, leaving a swathe of smouldering country in its wake. The danger was that a 90 windshift could turn it this into a 60km fire front. However, light easterly winds near the coast eased conditions around Sutherland, south of Sydney, but fluctuating strong winds farther south made containment of a major 15km front from Appin in the west to Yallala Falls in the Royal National Park in the east impossible. The front jumped the Princes Highway between Heathcote and Waterfall and entered the park soon after midday. During the evening, a planned back-burn within the RNP to protect the park and nearby suburbs had to be cancelled when winds changed from westerly to southerly, driving fire towards the outskirts of Heathcote where six streets were evacuated.
  • Royal National Park authorities feared a major ecological disaster today as around 80% of the park was consumed by flames. It is the park's third major bushfire in 8 years. About 95% of the park was destroyed in January 1994 and it also suffered damage in the 1997 fires. About 100 species had regenerated strongly after 1994 but others had not and needed more time. Surveys revealed that scores of species disappeared altogether.
  • Across the state, it was estimated that 100,000ha of national park had been burnt by late today.
  • During the afternoon, a fire front on top of Mt Kembla, behind Wollongong, threatened to move down the mountain into suburban areas and a major evacuation was planned. However, cooler conditions and easing winds made the fire conditions more manageable. 
  • In the Warragamba/Silverdale area southwest of Sydney, hundreds of residents were evacuated from small hamlets in the area today.
  • Fire fronts continued to cause problems in the lower Blue Mountains around Springwood, Blaxland and Mt Riverview where four properties were destroyed today. Evacuations occurred in Blaxland. Winds, though not as strong as yesterday, continued to fan the flames, and turned from WNW to WSW. The lower Mountains fire front spotted across the Nepean River during the afternoon raising fears for the safety of isolated properties and hamlets in the Baulkham Hills area northwest of Sydney, where a state of emergency was declared late afternoon as the fire entered the Castlereagh State Forest. Conditions, however, eased during the evening. 
  • By late morning, fire authorities were estimating that more than 80 properties had been destroyed in the Greater Sydney area, 14 in the Hawkesbury and 20 in the Shoalhaven. No lives have been lost. In the 1994 fires, 185 properties were destroyed around Sydney and four lives lost. John Winter, from the NSW Rural Fire Service, said that the figures were "certainly beginning to be on par with '94. The key difference is so far we haven't had any loss of life. Given the sheer intensity of the fires, that's absolutely extraordinary."
  • Power to 12,000 homes south and southwest of Sydney and around the Illawarra remained cut. Helensburgh, Otford and Stanwell Tops were expected to be without power for 3 or 4 days, creating water and sewage problems, and evacuated residents were warned not to return to their homes.
  • Many roads remained or became blocked by fire. They included the Princes Highway at Loftus, just south of Sutherland, and the F6 from Heathcote to Mt Ousley. The only road open into Wollongong from Sydney was the Mt Keira road. Many roads in outer southwestern to northwestern Sydney around Mulgoa, Wallacia, St Clair, Cranebrook, Castlereagh and Blaxland's Ridge were shut. To the north, the Putty Road was closed between Windsor and Singleton, Peats Ridge Road was blocked at Somersby and the Pacific Highway north of Maclean. In the south, Princes Highway remained blocked north of the Jervis Bay turnoff, and in the central west the Gulgong to Goolma Road was closed.
  • All trains on the Illawarra line from Sydney were terminating at Sutherland.
  • Fires were contained around Canberra in the ACT today as winds eased. More than 1000ha is estimated to have been burnt out in the past two days.
  • Fire authorities believed that arsonists were the cause of the majority of the fires.
  • The NSW Government declared parts of Sydney's west and south, the Central Coast, Illawarra, the North Coast, Central West and the Hunter as natural disaster areas. The government is setting up a community disaster relief fund which it is kick-starting with a $1m donation. The Prime Minister, Mr John Howard, visited Warragamba and Silverdale today and praised the work of volunteer firefighters.
  • NSW Fire Authorities called on help from Navy personnel and 200 Victorian firefighters.

Heatwave conditions contracted into southeastern Queensland today, with two locations, Gympie and Town of 1770, reporting their hottest days on record, and Baralaba breaking the December temperature record set only yesterday. Details are below.

  BoM

Radar image of the storm at 7.30pm off the coast near Ulladulla. The "rain" echoes around Sydney are echoes from moisture and debris in bushfire smoke clouds.
The waterspout, as aired on ABC TV.

Competitors in the 2001 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race had a quick introduction to the wild weather for which the race is renown when they sailed into a major storm only six hours after the start. Seven competitors were forced to retire, two through being dismasted by strong winds. The storm was accompanied by a dramatic waterspout, which passed close to last year's race winner Nicorette.

Wintry weather continued across Tasmania and Victoria today, with temperatures up to 16 below normal, heavy rain on Tasmania's west coast and strong to gale force winds. In Victoria, Mt Hotham's 3pm temperature was -1.3 and the maximum for the day was +0.4, 16 below normal. Automatic weather station reports from the Victorian Alps and Mt Wellington in Tasmania suggest that light snow fell during the day, while atop Mt Read, behind Zeehan on Tasmania's West Coast, much of the 57mm that fell in the 27 hours to midday would have fallen as solid precipitation, with the temperature hovering between 0 and 1 for much of the time.

 

National weather extremes for today
Data provided by the Bureau of Meteorology
Last updated at 20:01 EDST on 27/12/01

Quality control note: Data is complete, and has been visually checked by AWN for gross errors. Less obvious errors may remain. See Explanation of Extremes Pages for more information
Records set this day (previous record and years of computerised record shown in brackets):
Highest daily maximum temperature for any month:
Town of 1770 Qld: 33.4 (33.0, 14)
Gympie Qld: 42.0 (41.0, 36)
Highest daily maximum temperature for December:
Baralaba PO Qld: 43.7 (43.4, 32) breaking the record set yesterday

Todays highest rainfall totals for the 24 hours to 9am. It includes the top 5 totals received, and/or all reported falls of 50mm or more.

47.2 CRADLE VALLEY (WALDHEIM) Central Plateau TAS
45.4 GOULBURN AIRPORT AWS Goulburn/Monaro NSW
44.8 STRATHGORDON VILLAGE W Coast TAS
40.2 BAMAGA N Peninsula QLD
36.8 LAKE ST CLAIR NATIONAL PARK Central Plateau TAS

QUEENSLAND
    N Peninsula
40.2 BAMAGA

NEW SOUTH WALES
    Goulburn/Monaro
45.4 GOULBURN AIRPORT AWS

TASMANIA
    Central Plateau
47.2 CRADLE VALLEY (WALDHEIM)
36.8 LAKE ST CLAIR NATIONAL PARK
    W Coast
44.8 STRATHGORDON VILLAGE

High rainfall for periods of 6 hours or less.


WESTERN AUSTRALIA
    E Kimberley
WARMUN
21.0mm in 3 hr to 18:00 7.0mm/h

NORTHERN TERRITORY
    Victoria
VICTORIA RIVER DOWNS
8.6mm in 8 min to 19:06 64.5mm/h
12.0mm in 10 min to 19:16 72.0mm/h
14.4mm in 14 min to 19:30 61.7mm/h
38.2mm in 1 hr to 19:30 38.2mm/h
43.0mm in 3 hr to 20:30 14.3mm/h

QUEENSLAND
    N Peninsula
HORN ISLAND
18.6mm in 1 hr 36 min to 13:00 11.6mm/h
    S Peninsula
PALMERVILLE
7.8mm in 9 min to 20:56 52.0mm/h
21.0mm in 3 hr to 21:00 7.0mm/h
29.6mm in 9 min to 21:05 197.3mm/h
2.6mm in 1 min to 21:06 156.0mm/h
18.8mm in 8 min to 21:14 141.0mm/h
1.8mm in 1 min to 21:15 108.0mm/h
22.8mm in 32 min to 21:47 42.8mm/h
    Upper Carpentaria
GEORGETOWN POST OFFICE
33.0mm in 3 hr to 18:00 11.0mm/h

VICTORIA
    E Central
MELBOURNE AIRPORT
4.6mm in 13 min to 13:30 21.2mm/h

Todays highest & lowest temperatures

Maximum Minimum
44.3 TELFER AERO Interior WA
43.7 BARALABA POST OFFICE Wide Bay/Burnett QLD
43.0 EMERALD AIRPORT Central Highlands QLD
43.0 TOOLARA (KELLY) Brisbane/SE Coast QLD
43.0 MOUNT AUGUSTUS E Gascoyne WA
29.6 TELFER AERO Interior WA
29.6 SWEERS ISLAND Gulf Country QLD
29.5 ELLIOTT Barkly NT
29.3 CLERMONT POST OFFICE Central Highlands QLD
29.2 CENTRE ISLAND Roper-McArthur NT
29.2 NORMANTON AIRPORT Gulf Country QLD
0.4 MT HOTHAM Upper NE VIC
3.0 THREDBO (CRACKENBACK STATION) AWS Snowy Mtns NSW
3.8 MOUNT WELLINGTON Southeast TAS
4.6 MOUNT READ W Coast TAS
7.8 HARTZ MOUNTAIN(KEOGHS PIMPLE) Southeast TAS
-1.0 THREDBO (CRACKENBACK STATION) AWS Snowy Mtns NSW
-0.8 MOUNT WELLINGTON Southeast TAS
-0.1 MOUNT READ W Coast TAS
0.1 LIAWENEE AWS Central Plateau TAS
0.6 MT HOTHAM AIRPORT Upper NE VIC
0.6 CRADLE MOUNTAIN AIRSTRIP Central Plateau TAS

Todays greatest temperature variations from normal

Maximum Minimum
+10.9   39.9 NAMBOUR DPI Brisbane/SE Coast QLD
+10.8   42.0 GYMPIE Brisbane/SE Coast QLD
+10.6   36.4 SOUTH WEST ROCKS (SMOKY CAPE LIGHTHOUSE) MidNorth Coast N NSW
+9.7   43.7 BARALABA POST OFFICE Wide Bay/Burnett QLD
+9.1   38.2 MURWILLUMBAH (BRAY PARK) North Coast NSW
+8.5   29.3 CLERMONT POST OFFICE Central Highlands QLD
+7.9   23.9 TABULAM (MUIRNE) N Tablelands E NSW
+7.5   25.5 NAMBOUR DPI Brisbane/SE Coast QLD
+7.3   25.5 ALSTONVILLE TROPICAL FRUIT RESEARCH STAT North Coast NSW
+7.1   27.2 BARALABA POST OFFICE Wide Bay/Burnett QLD
+7.1   25.4 GRAFTON OLYMPIC POOL North Coast NSW
-11.4   26.0 ALI CURUNG Alice Springs NT
-11.1   3.0 THREDBO (CRACKENBACK STATION) AWS Snowy Mtns NSW
-11.0   15.1 LAKE EILDON GOULBURN MURRAY WATER (LAKE N Central VIC
-10.9   13.8 STRATHBOGIE Lower NE VIC
-10.3   11.9 NOOJEE (SLIVAR) W Gippsland VIC
-10.3   16.3 MARYBOROUGH (DERBY STREET) N Central VIC
-8.8   3.0 MANGALORE AIRPORT N Central VIC
-8.7   4.7 WALPEUP RESEARCH Mallee N VIC
-8.5   3.2 WANGARATTA AERO Lower NE VIC
-8.4   3.0 RUTHERGLEN RESEARCH Lower NE VIC
-7.1   9.4 GUNNEDAH POOL NW Slopes S NSW

Highest wind gusts above 89km/h or mean wind above 62km/h (gale force). Wind direction and mean windspeed shown in brackets.

DOUBLE ISLAND POINT LIGHTHOUSE Brisbane/SE Coast QLD: 95 (280/ 56 ) at 19:36
MONTAGUE ISLAND LIGHTHOUSE South Coast NSW: 89 (170/ 69 ) at 18:27
GREEN CAPE AWS South Coast NSW: 85 (200/ 63 ) at 14:55
WILSONS PROMONTORY LIGHTHOUSE W Gippsland VIC: 102 (230/ 89 ) at 12:13
KINGFISH A SHIP LOG 206 W Gippsland VIC: 74 (282/ 63 ) at 00:20
MOUNT WELLINGTON Southeast TAS: 95 (230/ 78 ) at 12:30

Other extremes

Flood peaks:
Cooper Creek at Windorah Qld:
5.06m during the afternoon, just above major flood level.