Some of the best rainfall in months has been predicted as firefighters rejoice in the hope that traditional summer weather conditions may be making a comeback.
As drought and bushfire-fatigued Australians celebrated downpours in scattered parts of the country, the weather bureau predicted more falls would quench NSW and Victoria in coming days.
The fire-ravaged NSW landscape is expecting some of the biggest rain since around the start of the bushfire crisis.
Sydney is expected to receive 10-25mms while up to 50mm is forecast for parts of the state along with thunderstorms.
Falls of up to 50mm would be the state’s most significant rainfall since September last year.
Rain is also expected to continue falling into the weekend and next week in NSW, with heavier rainfall for Victoria on Sunday and Monday.
The NSW Northern Tablelands, Northern Slopes, Northern Rivers, Mid North Coast and Hunter are all expected to receive significant downpours.
However the “hit-and-miss” nature of the summer thunderstorms makes it difficult to forecast where the heaviest rain will be, the weather bureau said.
“Some parts of #bushfire & #drought affected eastern Australia could see 50–100 mm over the next few days; while others may see very little,” according to BOM.
While celebrating the relief rain brought to exhausted firefighters, the NSW RFS warned it wasn’t the end of the bushfire crisis.
Dancing in The Rain!
Australia is seeing rain around the country, bringing some help to Firefighters that have been battling the bushfires, even though there hasn't been enough rain yet to put out all the fires.#RainDance#FireFighters#ThursdayThoughts pic.twitter.com/AmMU647t8V
— ~Marietta (@MariettaDaviz) January 16, 2020
Late on Thursday night there were 81 bushfires burning – down from 88 just 24 hours earlier – after significant rain aided firefighters and gave them favourable conditions to strengthen containment lines.
On Thursday, there were still 1700 firefighters on the ground battling fires.
“Relief is here for a number of firefighters working across NSW,” the RFS said on Twitter.
“Although this rain won’t extinguish all fires, it will certainly go a long way towards containment.”
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) January 16, 2020
The Bureau of Meteorology has issued severe wind and thunderstorm warnings for many regions in the state.
Wind gusts of 92.6kmh at Parkes Airport, in Central West NSW, were recorded on Thursday afternoon.
Thunderstorms and heavy rain are predicted to bring flash-flooding and damaging winds to several areas including Sydney, Port Macquarie, Taree, , Armidale, Orange, Canberra, Goulburn and Tamworth on Thursday night.
Victoria is forecast to get some reprieve on Friday from flash-flooding, blanketing smoke and lightning igniting new fires across the state.
While some “hit and miss” thunderstorms are likely in the northeast, the state is expected to have a calm Friday, with showers potentially leaving 2-5mm of rain in the eastern regions.
But the reprieve from weather conditions this week that left “the worst air in the world” in Melbourne as 77mm of rain fell in the western suburbs is not expected to last long.
Easterly winds will likely bring smoke haze from fire-ravaged areas to central Victoria on Saturday, with air quality predicted to range from “very poor” to “hazardous”.
A low-pressure system could mean heavier falls across the state on Sunday and Monday, but it is not yet clear whether that rain will reach bushfire regions.
“Certainly, at this stage, there is the potential that we could see more rainfall across those fire-affected areas,” Bureau of Meteorology senior meteorologist Diana Eadie told reporters.
“But it is highly dependent on exactly where that low (pressure system) is, and we will be monitoring that very carefully over the coming days.”
Rain hitting the alpine and East Gippsland regions on Thursday did little to help battle the fires.
One emergency warning was placed on Thursday evening in Abbeyard.
Emergency services said the bushfire could impact the towns of Nug Nug, Buffalo River and Merrang South overnight and warned residents to leave.
Another six “Watch and Acts” alerts remained in place, as more than 1500 firefighters were kept fighting 20 active fires that have burnt more than 1.5 million hectares.
Tourists steering clear of Victoria’s high country amid fears of bushfires and smoke were on Thursday cautiously invited to return.
Tourism North East issued the appeal, stressing that the vast majority of the region has not been directly impacted by flames and that shops and restaurants remain open.
“High country communities are resilient and together we look forward to welcoming guests back to the region,” Tourism North East acting chief executive Sarah Pilgrim said.