New South Wales will swelter through the final three days of 2016 in a heatwave with temperatures in the high 30s to low 40s expected to last until New Year’s Day.
It comes as authorities in Victoria issued a statewide thunderstorm warning, with rainfalls of up to 100mm expected, and South Australian authorities warned of more flash-floods in its north-east pastoral districts.
The NSW police initiated a heatwave action plan on Wednesday afternoon, advising people that: “if you can, it’s a good idea to spend some time in an air-conditioned building.”
Temperatures on the mid-north coast reached 30 degrees by 9.30am on Thursday and the south coast town of Bega, known for its mild conditions, was sitting on 34C.
Mohammad Nabi, forecaster with the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) in Sydney, said the city centre was expecting temperatures of 37C on Thursday, with the heat expected to last until Saturday.
Outer western suburbs, such as Penrith, were forecast to reach 41C , and Cobar, in the central west about 700km north of Sydney, was expected to reach the mid 40s. “The uncomfortable part will be that we will have high temperatures today, and also high temperatures tomorrow and on Saturday,” Nabi told Guardian Australia.
The weather is not expected to cool until potentially the early hours of New Year’s Day. “It’s not going to cool down in a hurry,” Nabi said.
Health authorities in NSW have warned people to stay hydrated, avoid alcohol or sugary drinks, limit their physical activity, and try to stay out of the sun in the middle of the day.
People are also advised to watch out for the signs of heat stress: confusion, dizziness, fainting, nausea, vomiting, weakness and headaches. Infants and the elderly are most at risk from heat stroke. Authorities advised vulnerable people to visit somewhere with air conditioning, such as a public library or shopping centre, to escape the heat.
In Victoria, the hot and humid conditions that saw Melbourne swelter through an overnight minimum of 27 degrees on Wednesday night – just 0.4 degrees shy of the hottest ever December night, recorded in 2012 – are expected to be chased away by thunderstorms.
Dean Stewart, senior forecaster with BOM in Melbourne, said a severe thunderstorm warning had been issued for most of the state and could bring heavy rainfall, damaging winds and flash-flooding.
Stewart said the storms were the result of a low pressure system coming in off the bight and meeting a bank of humid air, which had travelled to Victoria from the floods in central Australia.
The greatest risk of flooding is expected in central and north-eastern Victoria, around Wangaratta, said emergency management commissioner Craig Lapsley. He told ABC radio that Victoria was facing “a mixed bag” of weather, and urged people to exercise common sense.
The thunderstorms are not expected to start any new bushfires, however, with the high humidity keeping the fire danger rating at low to moderate. Lapsley said a fire at Carrum Downs, on Melbourne’s eastern fringes, on Wednesday showed that even people in metropolitan areas could be affected by bushfires, and should prepare their properties accordingly.
“It was right up against people’s properties which is exactly what we were saying at the start of the season, which is: if you are in the metropolitan area don’t think that you haven’t got the potential for a bushfire, especially in that peri-urban area,” he said.
The BOM in South Australia has issued flood warnings for the north-east corner of the state, which is expected to be affected by heavy rainfall and flash flooding. Forecaster Paul Bierman said the risk of flooding in other parts of the state, issued following severe thunderstorms on Tuesday, had greatly reduced.
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