Much of Australia is bracing for wild weather ahead of the weekend.
A NSW bushfire has been upgraded to an emergency level after it burnt more than 1300 hectares of bushland, threatening homes and forcing a primary school to shut.
“It’s going to be a very, very difficult afternoon,” Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told the ABC.
A total fire ban was issued for the Greater Hunter region on Friday morning as the weather bureau issued warnings of wind gusts of up to 90km/h.
Dozens of properties were impacted early and more than 200 firefighters and multiple aerial support water bombing aircraft were deployed across the Lemon Tree Passage peninsula.
“The fire is burning very aggressively and moving very quickly,” Mr Fitzsimmons said.
EMERGENCY WARNING: Richardson Rd Fire, Salt Ash. Firefighters are continuing to work behind homes on Rookes Rd, Salt Ash. Residents should take advice from crews in the area and seek shelter as the firefront approaches. #NSWRFS pic.twitter.com/a3WFRHii2c
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) November 23, 2018
NSW Health said the state had developed a “hazardous” air quality on Friday after a 500-kilometre dust storm that blanketed Sydney on Thursday.
It has urged residents with any health or lung problems to be “cautious” for the rest of Friday.
Sydney “may still see dust haze linger over the next couple of days”, Bureau of Meteorology severe weather manager Simon Louis told News Corp.
“It should continue to reduce in intensity as it goes.”
NSW bushfires impacting Salt Ash
The main bushfire front in northern NSW is impacting the suburb of Salt Ash, north of Newcastle, as the blaze at Campvale moves towards Rookes Road.
Locals are being urged to heed warnings from the NSW Rural Fire Service as strong winds continue, fanning the blaze in the area and posing an imminent risk to properties.
They said the fire activity had increased on the northern side of the fire ground, while the southern front remains uncontained.
Salt Ash Public School has been forced to close as a result.
People in the affected areas have been sent emergency text messages.
“They are getting gusts of more than 50kph already, so that is emergency, and our concern is that fire will continue to escalate in intensity,” NSW RFS Deputy Commission Rob Rogers said.
“If people are concerned, go outside and talk to the firefighters and they will give you good advice.”
The Bureau of Meteorology issued a severe weather warning on Friday, cautioning people in NSW’s southeast to prepare for damaging winds, stretching from the Victorian border up to the Hunter region.
Due to revised forecast, Total Fire Ban declared for Greater Hunter region, with a Severe Fire Danger Rating, due to hot and windy conditions. Winds expected to reach 60km/h gusts up to 80-90 km/h. Ask yourself, how fireproof is your plan? https://t.co/KzvjEDYbSG #NSWRFS
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) November 22, 2018
Victoria braces for more extreme weather, rain and snow
In Melbourne, strong winds and heavy rain lashed the state overnight, with the Bureau expecting flooding to occur at the Yarra, Bunyip, Dandenong and Latrobe catchments on Friday and Saturday.
The city received 6 millimetres of rain in the CBD over 12 hours on Thursday and 35 millimetres of rain in the south-eastern suburbs.
Wind gusts reached a peak of 127km/h at Wilsons Promontory, south east of Melbourne, on Friday morning and an apartment complex in Beaumaris was evacuated after a tree fell on its roof.
The Severe Weather Warning for parts of #Victoria has been updated – winds slowly easing from the west. Strongest gust observed 126 km/h at Wilsons Promontory at 5:15am. https://t.co/JrHe5r6hFC pic.twitter.com/M9onenaoSt
— Bureau of Meteorology, Victoria (@BOM_Vic) November 23, 2018
The Bureau later issued a severe weather warning on Friday for damaging winds for south-eastern parts of Melbourne.
It says peak gusts could reach up to 100km/h with averages of 60 km/h.
A cattle export ship transporting 4327 cows to the Middle East was detained along Victoria’s southwest coast after wildly rocking on Friday.
More storms expected for South Australia
The bureau has warned of potentially catastrophic weather events for South Australia next week.
It said the state could experience a repeat of Wednesday’s wild weather, when about 40,000 homes were left without power and about 100,000 properties were affected in Adelaide after the SA Power Network buckled under an intense low pressure system.
It expects three similar low-pressure systems to approach Adelaide in the middle of next week.
Bushfires torch parts of Western Australia
It also issued an alert about a fire in the city of Armadale, where firefighters are responding.
On Thursday total fire bans were declared for Coolgardie, Dundas, Kalgoorlie-Boulder, Laverton, Leonora, Menzies, Ngaanyatjarraku, Sandstone and Wiluna.