An extreme heatwave will sweep across Australia today bringing temperatures of 45C and an increased risk of bushfires.
The mercury will hit 38C in western Sydney but Melbourne will be the hottest capital city as temperatures soar to 43C this afternoon, creating gruelling conditions for the Australian Open tennis.
The energy market operator has issued a level-two warning for Victoria to encourage electricity generation amid fears residents blasting air-conditioning units will put pressure on the power supply.
As of Friday morning no power cuts were expected – but operators were watching the situation closely.
The heatwave is expected to be followed by extreme humidity, storms and potential flash flooding in Victoria on Sunday.
An extreme heatwave will sweep across Australia today bringing temperatures of 45C and an increased risk of bushfires. Pictured: Weather map for Friday
The north of Victoria will be the hottest part of state with temperatures hitting 45C. The heat spike has renewed fears of further bushfires after a week of mild weather conditions.
A blaze in the state’s bushfire-ravaged East Gippsland region flared up on Thursday, prompting an emergency alert as it threatened lives and homes.
Melburnians have been urged to be aware of potential changes to public transport due to the heat.
‘We’re going to see increased humidity, and that’s going to lead to oppressive conditions thanks to a tropical plunge moving across Victoria,’ Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Diana Eadie said.
‘It’s going to feel for some parts more like a build-up day in Darwin rather than what we’re accustomed to in Melbourne.’
Temperatures will be so high that Moonee Valley Racing Club has called off tonight’s event to protect horses.
‘The welfare of our horses and participants must be the priority,’ Racing Victoria’s General Manager of Racing Greg Carpenter said in a statement.
A spate of hot days is forecast to extend from Thursday into the weekend, raising fire danger levels ahead of damaging northerly winds and rain through the state on Saturday and Sunday.
But the rainfall is not expected to fall evenly across the state.
A large bushfire burns near houses in Bargo, southwest of Sydney on December 21. Bushfire danger returns today
‘We’ll see that rain move across, or showers and storms tending to rain areas. Though it will still be patchy and hit-and-miss, so not everywhere will see that drop of rain,’ Ms Eadie told reporters.
‘With the incredible amount of humidity, risk of locally heavy falls and flash flooding will extend across much of southwestern and central parts again on Saturday, including the Melbourne area.’
It has prompted a total fire ban for all state regions except Gippsland and the northeast.
Those bushfire-ravaged areas will not be affected by the fire ban, but still have nine of the 10 currently active fires burning more than 1.5 million hectares in Victoria.
Emergency services say these alerts were put in place in an effort to prevent new fires across forested and grassland areas, particularly in the west of the state.
Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp urged Victorians to remain vigilant, sending a blunt reminder that the fire season was far from over.
‘We’ve had the benefit of some suppressed, benign conditions over the last few days. However, as we’ve heard, it’s going be hot,’ Mr Crisp said.
‘We’ve had fires the last two years in March, where we’ve lost property in this state. So, we have still got probably another six to eight weeks to go in relation to some fairly active fire behaviour.’
Emergency services and defence forces have continued clearing roads to fire-affected communities.
About 250 people were able to return to the stranded town of Mallacoota, where emergency minister Lisa Neville warned locals they might see embers and smoke as fire activity increased on the weekend.
The mercury will hit 38C in western Sydney but Melbourne will be the hottest capital city as temperatures soar to 43C this afternoon, creating gruelling conditions for the Australian Open tennis. Pictured: Forecast map for Friday 5pm
In New South Wales firefighters are gearing up for the return of hot and dry conditions forecast to elevate bushfire risk.
Total fire bans have on Friday been declared for the Monaro alpine, southern ranges and southern slopes regions, while ‘very high’ fire danger ratings are in place for much of western and southern NSW.
The Bureau of Meteorology says a heatwave is forecast to push temperatures into the mid-40s for parts of inland NSW in coming days.
The return of dangerous bushfire conditions follows a memorial service held for three American airmen killed in a firefighting plane crash in southern NSW.
Captain Ian McBeth, first officer Paul Clyde Hudson and flight engineer Rick DeMorgan Jr were killed when their water-bombing tanker crashed northeast of Cooma on January 23.
Grieving family and friends on Thursday attended a memorial service for the men at the Richmond RAAF base.
Fire danger warnings were issued on Thursday for several areas in South Australia, where temperatures were forecast to exceed 40C and winds were expected to reach 35 kmh.
Among them was Kangaroo Island, a popular tourist destination that has already been razed by fires that killed two people. After a day of heat, by early evening no new fires had emerged.
People flock to St Kilda beach, south of Melbourne, as a heatwave sweeps across the state of Victoria
‘On Friday, there will also be hot and windy conditions, however, some parts of the Island may experience rainfall from mid-morning,’ the state’s fire service said.
‘A total Fire Ban is in place on the island, with a rating of SEVERE.’
Meanwhile, firefighters have brought a fire on Tasmania’s east coast under control but dry and hot weather will keep crews on edge for a second consecutive day.
The bushfire about 1.5km west of the township, briefly reached ‘watch and act’ level on Thursday afternoon before it was downgraded.
Temperatures in parts of the state reached the mid-30s on Thursday.
The mercury is forecast rise further on Friday, particularly in the southeast, with Hobart tipped to hit 40C.
Severe fire danger will persist on the east coast, southeast and central regions on Friday, with the summit of Hobart’s Mt Wellington and walking tracks at Freycinet National Park remaining off limits.
A total fire ban is in place on Friday for the east and south.
There will be relief heading into the weekend, with a cooler front and rain forecast to cross the island on Friday evening.
As firefighters and residents prepared for the heightened danger, the New South Wales state government launched a six-month inquiry to examine both the causes of and response to this season’s deadly wildfires.
‘We don’t want to waste the opportunity to take on board any recommendations we need to adopt ahead of the bushfire season this year… as we approach summer of 2021,’ said premier Gladys Berejiklian.
Blazes so far this season have burnt out more than 11.7 million hectares (117,000 sq km) across Australia’s most populous states, killing at least 33 people and about 1 billion animals, and destroying 2,500 homes.
Australia’s dangerous summer weather has largely been driven by temperature variations in the Indian Ocean, which the country’s weather bureau said on Thursday were likely to keep conditions hot and dry until March.
2019/2020 FIRE SEASON DEATH TOLL
The national death toll in Australia’s 2019/2020 bushfire season was 33 as of Monday, January 27, with 25 confirmed deaths in New South Wales, three in South Australia and five in Victoria.
New South Wales:
Robert Lindsey, 77, and Gwen Hyde, 68, were found in their burned out Coongbar home near Casino on October 9th.
New South Wales:
The body of 85-year-old George Nole was found in a burnt out car near his home in Wytaliba, near Glen Innes.
Vivian Chaplain, a 69-year-old woman from Wytaliba, succumbed to her injuries in hospital after attempting in vain to save her home and animals from the blaze.
The body of 63-year-old Julie Fletcher was pulled from a scorched building in Johns River, north of Taree.
Barry Parsons, 58, was found in a shed at Willawarrin, near Kempsey.
Chris Savva, 64, died after his 4WD overturned near burnt-out South Arm bridge, near Nambucca Heads.
A 59-year-old man was founded sheltered in a Yarrowitch water tank on November 7. He died of injuries on December 29.
David Moresi, 69, died after being involved in a traffic incident while working at the at the Gelantipy fire in East Gippsland on November 30.
New South Wales:
Firefighters Andrew O’Dwyer, 36, and Geoffrey Keaton, 32, died on December 19 after a tree fell on their truck while they were travelling through Buxton, south of Sydney.
Samuel McPaul, 28, was battling a blaze in Jingellic, in Green Valley, about 70km east of Albury on the border of NSW and Victoria, on December 30 when a ‘fire tornado’ caused his 10-tonne firetruck to roll.
The body of 69-year-old Ron Selth was found in his Charleston home, which was destroyed by the Cudlee Creek blaze on December 21.
NEW YEAR’S EVE FIRES
New South Wales:
Dairy farmer Patrick Salway, 29, and his father Robert, 63, died trying to save their property in Cobargo, near Bega, on December 31.
A 70-year-old man, named by local media as Laurie Andrew, was found dead outside a home at Yatte Yattah, west of Lake Conjola.
The body of a 70-year-old man was found in a burnt vehicle on a road off the Princes Highway at Yatte Yattah on the morning of New Year’s Day.
The body of a 62-year-old man was found in a vehicle on Wandra Road at Sussex Inlet about 11.30am on New Year’s Day.
A body, believed to be a 56-year-old man, found outside a home at Coolagolite, east of Cobargo on New Year’s Day.
An off-duty RFS firefighter, believed to be 72-year-old Colin Burns, was found near a car in Belowra after the New Year’s Eve fires swept through.
Beloved great-grandfather Mick Roberts, 67, from Buchan, in East Gippsland, was found dead at his home on the morning of New Year’s Day.
Fred Becker, 75, was the second person to die in Victoria. He suffered a heart attack while trying to defend his Maramingo Creek home.
New South Wales:
David Harrison, a 47-year-old man from Canberra, suffered a heart attack defending his friend’s home near Batlow on Saturday, January 4.
A 71-year-old man was found on January 6. Police have been told the man was last sighted on December 31, 2019 and was moving equipment on his property in Nerrigundah.
An 84-year-old man who stayed to defend his home in Cobargo, NSW, dies in hospital three weeks after fire hit. His pet dog Bella, who stayed by his side as fires raged, was also killed in the disaster.
Three American firefighters are killed when Coulson Aviation C-130 Hercules water bomber Zeus crashed while fighting fires near Cooma on Thursday January 23. They have been named as Capt. Ian H. McBeth, 44, First Officer Paul Clyde Hudson and Flight Engineer Rick A. DeMorgan Jr, 43.
On January 24, Michael Clark, 59, was found in a Bodalla home destroyed by bushfires near the NSW South Coast town of Moruya.
Forest Fire Management firefighter Mat Kavanagh, 43, was killed Friday January 3 when he was involved in a two-car crash on the Goulburn Valley Highway.
Bill Slade, a 60-year-old father of two from Wonthaggi was fighting fires with Parks Victoria at Omeo when he died on January 11. He has been remembered as one of the longest serving, most experienced and fittest firefighters.
Well-known outback pilot Dick Lang, 78, and his 43-year-old son, Adelaide surgeon Clayton Lang, died in the Kangaroo Island bushfire after their car was trapped by flames.