NSW: Drought covers nearly all the state. Figures released by NSW Primary Industries Minister Ian MacDonald today show that nearly 98% of the state at the end of December was in drought -- 93.2% is classified drought-affected and a further 4.7% is classified as marginally in drought. The drought-affected area rose half a percent on the November figure. Total NSW water storage was at 20.4% capacity. The figures took into account rain that fell over the Christmas/New Year period, which was patchy and isolated.
VIC: Fires continue to cause concern. The two major fire complexes in the east of the State, the Great Divide Complex North and the Great Divide Complex South, continue to burn although they have largely been contained. However an uncontrolled breakout on the eastern edge of the Great Divide Complex South is threatening the Bruthen/Tambo Crossing area with fire spotting occurring to within a kilometre or two of Bruthen, which came under ember attack this afternoon. Overnight, the main front of the blaze travelled 10km. A cool change moved over the area about 5pm, swinging the wind from northwest to south, and property protection is concentrating on Tambo Crossing and the Ensays. The Great Alpine Road is closed between Bruthen and Ensay and the Mt Buller Road is closed while it is cleared of trees and rocks. The small settlement of Glencairn, 15km NNW of Licola, had the bridge on its only access road to the outside world burnt, and now must ford the Barkly River to reach the main road. A house at Glencairn was destroyed when smouldering remains ignited after the fire front had passed. The fires have caused power and telecommunications difficulties in the area, with an additional generator being installed at Swifts Creek to provide back-up power to over 1000 users in the area.
The fire at Boulder Creek, between Cann River and Orbost, has burnt through 19.5sq km and is travelling rapidly in a south-easterly direction towards the Princes Highway and a number of small settlements in the area, although it is also spotting north, west and south. Gusty winds accompanied the change causing erratic fire behaviour, with reports of embers even being carried 30km from the fire to Lakes Entrance. Settlements under threat following the wind change were Club Terrace, Goolengook and McKenzie River. The fire was not declared contained until 7pm 9 January.
The two Great Divide complexes have burnt through 9060sq km of national park and forest since starting in the first few days of December, and over 200km of control line has been completed on the fires' southern flank. Other fires reported today were 22km west of Neerim South and near Kinglake but both are under control. This pdf file media map (1,1mb) from the VIC Department of Sustainability and Environment shows the vast extent of the fires.
VIC, NSW: Hot night in the southeast. Bombala AWS NSW and Bairnsdale VIC recorded their hottest nights on record at their present weather station sites last night (see records). The Bombala AWS is located on a hill top about 5km south of town; the town station recorded a minimum of 19.1 compared to their all time record of 24.2 in a 42-year history.
QLD: Rough seas on SE coasts. Persistent strong southeastlies have generated rough seas and heavy surf conditions on the QLD Gold and Sunshine Coasts, where over 40 surfers were rescued today, three requiring hospitalisation.
Bureau summaries issued today
VIC: A very dry 2006. Victoria experienced a very dry year, with a number of places receiving record low annual totals and a number of other places receiving less than half their usual allocation. Maximum temperatures over the year averaged about 1C above average, while minimum temperatures counterbalanced this, being about half a degree below normal. Both the rainfall and temperature distribution reflected the high frequence of intense high pressure systems affecting the state. Full report. xx
VIC: December 2006 similar to the rest of the year. December in VIC was also very dry, with above average maximum temperatures and below average minima. Full report.
Prs Ext Rec Not War Rdr Cht Rfl Rec