Leading into the weekend, Australia’s eastern states are facing mass severe weather warnings and are on high alert for thunderstorm asthma, bushfires, dust storms and damaging winds.
Emergency crews began door-knocking residents in Canberra on Friday in a pre-emptive move to alert homeowners living near an out-of-control bushfire southwest of Canberra.
A school was evacuated as firefighters fought a 113 hectare bushfire at Pierce Creek, 8 kilometres from the nearest suburb.
Emergency Services Commissioner Dominic Lane said winds are expected to pick up, making it difficult for firefighters to stop the blaze from spreading as it heads in a southeasterly direction.
“We do ask Canberrans to get ready, download the bushfire survival plan, go through the four simple steps of preparing that plan and getting ready for days like today,” Mr Lane said.
A total fire-ban has been put in place for Friday in the ACT as temperatures reach a forecast 33 degrees.
Health officials raised the thunderstorm asthma warning to “moderate” for the central, north central, northern country, north east and Gippsland areas on Friday morning.
Victorians need to be on high alert on Friday as pollen levels and the risk of a severe thunderstorm could prompt more allergy and asthma warnings.
Thunderstorm asthma happens when a large group of people experience asthma, often triggered by high pollen levels mixed with weather conditions.
A severe weather warning for damaging winds has been issued for parts of the state today. Make sure you drive to the conditions, don't park under trees and stay informed: https://t.co/BIpXTILzT2. If you need VICSES assistance call 132 500, or 000 for life threatening emergencies. pic.twitter.com/tRWoRdzF89
— VICSES News (@vicsesnews) November 2, 2018
Authorities have urged people who are prone to developing symptoms to avoid exposure to storms or high winds, have a reliever on hand and know their asthma action plan.
Melbourne’s thunderstorm asthma disaster on November 21, 2016, claimed 10 lives after temperatures in the CBD hit 35 degrees before an unprecedented number of storms swept across the state.
Authorities are no longer approving burn permits and revoking those already given out as fire danger ratings in Tasmania reach a “very high” level.
The ratings were expected for Friday and Saturday for parts of the north and south, Tasmania Fire Service said.
“The risk to the community of issuing permits to allow landowners to conduct burns on their property is too great under the expected conditions which include thunderstorms and strong, dry winds,” regional chief Jeremy Smith said.
People have been urged not to burn piles of vegetation of a cubic metre or less which usually does not require a permit: “In these conditions only one strong gust of wind or nearby lightning strike could pose a risk.”
About 18,000 homes in South Australia are without power after an electrical storm with more than 100,000 lightning strikes swept across the state and caused damage to equipment.
SA Power Networks put on extra crews to restore services to the Eyre Peninsula, York Peninsula, across the Adelaide Hills and the Adelaide metropolitan area.
At the height of the storms early on Friday, the Country Fire Service was called to a house fire at McLaren Vale, south of Adelaide, which destroyed the property and caused up to $300,000 damage.
Conditions will moderate on Saturday with Adelaide forecast to have a partly cloudy day with a top of 21 degrees.
New South Wales
As temperatures approached 40 degrees, total fire bans are in place across NSW in greater Sydney, the Hunter, Illawarra and Southern Ranges on Friday.
The fire danger level has hit “severe” for Illawarra and remains “very high” for much of the rest of the state.
“Wind strength with the high temperature could still see some areas fall into the higher rating,” RFS Inspector Ben Sheppard said.
Due to the increased risk of fire in the Wagga Wagga, Lockhart, Junee and Coolamon areas, the NSW RFS is requesting harvest operators immediately stop and check local weather conditions before deciding whether it is safe to continue harvesting. https://t.co/2tuCDzMSPT #NSWRFS pic.twitter.com/LHNSoKlft4
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) November 1, 2018
Wind gusts are expected to reach up to 80km/h in some areas, including Goulburn.
“It’s important on the first real hot and windy day [of the season] people take five minutes to discuss with their family what to do in case of a fire,” Mr Sheppard added.
The RFS is also keeping an eye out on a fire in the Wollemi National Park, northeast of Rylstone, which is expected to grow.
In the west, the weather is less destructive, however the Bureau of Meteorology has put in place a weather warning for the Ashburton Inland and Gascoyne Inland fire weather districts.