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Friday, January 4, 2013

Unbelievable record heat in Australia -- 48.2 C or 118.8 F

Bushfires savage towns as heatwave hits five states

A wool shed goes up in flames near the Carlton River in Tasmania, where up to 80 buildings were destroyed. Picture: Richard Jupe Source: The Australian
BUSHFIRE season arrived in force yesterday as emergency fire crews in five states fought blazes amid record temperatures and ominously dry conditions.
In Tasmania, east of Hobart, fires destroyed as many as 65 buildings at Dunalley and 15 at Boomer Bay. There were also unconfirmed reports that one life had been lost.
Fires burned out of control in Victoria and South Australia where temperatures were well above 40 C, and strong southwesterly winds worsened conditions.
Tasmanian fire authorities were making comparisons to the conditions that led to the 2009 Black Saturday fires in Victoria that left 173 people dead, state fire chief Mike Brown declaring "we reached catastrophic fire danger ratings at times this afternoon".
Deputy Police Commissioner Scott Tilyard said a team of experts had been sent to Forcett, near Dunalley, last night to verify a report that a person had died.
"We've got people flying into the area at the moment to do an assessment of the Dunalley township in particular," Mr Tilyard said.
"That particular township ... has been the hardest hit this afternoon by the fire that started at Forcett.
"We have a report of about 50 people on the waterfront at Boomer Bay who are quite safe -- there's a fair bit of smoke in the area so there's obviously concerns in relation to potential smoke inhalation, and we've got plans in place to, if necessary, evacuate those people by boat."
The buildings destroyed in Dunalley, by a blaze started in nearby Forcett, include a primary school, petrol station and the RSL.
Resident Peter Crocker told the ABC: "To my knowledge, I know of at least two houses between myself and Dunalley that have been lost and I know of a couple of houses at Copping that have been destroyed by fire.
"We're going to try and go back into the area and see what's there and see if we can salvage anything out of it or put any fires out, if the house is not already gone."
Tasmanian fire authorities upgraded a warning for another fire near Bicheno on the island's east coast where campers were being evacuated and residents encouraged to act on their bushfire plans or leave.
Fires are also burning on the mid-north coast of NSW near Forster and in western parts of Queensland.
Inland Australia can expect temperatures above 40 C for the next week, a prolonged heatwave that will leave southern Australia on high bushfire alert.
Meteorologists are describing the blast of hot air as unusual given the size of the area it is affecting.
Birdsville, in Queensland's far west, had a high of 47.3 C while Hobart reached a record 41.8 C -- one degree hotter than the record set in 1976.
But it was South Australia that bore the brunt, with the wheat town of Wudinna on the Eyre Peninsula recording a high of 48.2 C, and 20 people admitted to hospital with heat-related illness.
Port Augusta, Whyalla, Moomba and Tarcoola all experienced temperatures above 47 C.
A large bushfire south of Adelaide came within metres of farmhouses and is believed to have destroyed a shed, crops and livestock.
About 315 ha of stubble and grass has been burnt in the fire -- which has yet to be brought under control -- along with some vines on one property.
The fire started about 1:20 p.m. south of Finniss, 70km south of Adelaide. Farmer Linda Lo said she had grave fears for some of her sheep after flames came within 40 metres of her home. "We've moved maybe a dozen horses around, but we've lost that back sheep paddock," she said.
A Country Fire Service spokesman said 75 firefighters and three water-bombing helicopters -- including water crane "Elisie" -- were unable to bring the blaze under control by last night.
Another blaze on the Yorke Peninsula was contained. "It's been pretty extreme," Bureau of Metrology senior forecaster Domenic Panuccio said in Adelaide. "We had most of the state above 40C before noon, which is incredible."
Adelaide had its fourth-highest temperature with 45 C, while Melbourne reached 40.2 C.
Temperatures across most of the state's south fell about 6pm, with a cool change that should last until Monday. "But the northern parts of the state are not going to have any sort of relief at all," Mr Panuccio said. "On Monday, it's going to be getting hot down south again as well."
Graham Walters, who runs the Wudinna Hotel in the heart of South Australia, said with the week-long heatwave showing no sign of abatement, it was difficult to tell the difference between 42 C and the 48.2 C recorded yesterday.
In Victoria, Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley predicted today as a "fire day of significance" in the northeast regions. Of most concern was a fire blazing in the southwest near Portland that had closed the Princes Highway.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Solar panel roofs would cut a part of the radiation hitting the house and provide energy for air conditioning. The only trouble with air con is that people tend to use them in non-lethal situations too.The human body works best at 36-37, so below 35 there should be no need to cool the house :-). But it would be a waste to install these systems everywhere (so some say), but maybe one house per village would be ok? (the rest of the year the full production would go to diminishing the cost of electricity for the community)