Weather Wild weather brings snow, gales and halts ferries

Wild weather brings snow, gales and halts ferries

The village of Hotham under snow as wild weather dumps flakes on the Blue Mountains and dusts parts of Queensland. Photo: SNOWSearch Twitter
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Snow has fallen in Queensland and the Blue Mountains as wild weather and gale force winds batter Australia’s coastline, forcing road closures and sending people indoors.

In Sydney, some ferry services were cancelled late on Tuesday morning because of the huge harbour swell. Sydney Airport also warned travellers of delays for arrivals and departures due to the weather.

In a rare occurrence for Queensland, the icy cold snap brought freezing temperatures to southern parts of the sunshine state.

Residents around the apple-growing regions of the Granite Belt near the border with NSW, west of Brisbane, woke Tuesday morning to light snowflakes and temperatures hitting zero degrees.

The Bureau of Meteorology says the flakes have been few and far between and are not expected to settle.

Snow has also been reported across the border at Eukey, in northern NSW.

Further south, however, a blanket of white snow covered parts of the Blue Mountains while the NSW coast was battered by strong winds and rain.

About five centimetres of snow settled on Katoomba, Blackheath and surrounding areas on Tuesday morning, as a burst of cold weather hit the state.

Thredbo reported 20 centimetres of snow overnight, with more “dumping” down on Tuesday morning.

“It’s enough to cause road issues and enough to fold the branches of the trees from the weight of the snow,” the Bureau of Meteorology’s Jordan Notara said.

The ice and snow temporarily forced the closure of the Great Western Highway at Katoomba, Mount Victoria and Blackheath, as well as a section of the Bells Line of Road.

Snow also affected local roads in the Central Tablelands and Snowy Mountains, with falls recorded in Oberon, Lithgow, and Armidale in NSW’s north.

Drivers were advised to avoid or delay travel unless necessary due to the conditions.

Meanwhile, Sydneysiders were warned to take care, with damaging and destructive winds set to lash the coast later on Tuesday.

The bureau said an intense Tasman low and associated cold front would produce winds of between 60 and 70km/h, with peak gusts of more than 90km/h.

Sydney Airport recorded a gust of 91km/h at 10am, while on the Harbour it peaked at 85km/h.

Qantas and Virgin Australia warned that the wild weather could impact flights and urged travellers to check with their airlines for updates.

The bureau has also warned of heavy surf along the NSW coast, with waves larger than five metres predicted.

Ferries between Manly and Circular Quay had to be cancelled due to the large swell. Train commuters were also warned to allow extra travel time.

Ulladullah, on the NSW south coast, recorded a wind gust of 130km/h just before 4am on Tuesday – the highest in its nine years of data.

The bureau has issued a warning for drivers in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, with gusty winds expected to make conditions dangerous.

“Motorists are advised to take extreme care,” it said.

The arrival of a cold air mass about midnight saw temperatures fall, but icy winds are making it seem much colder than it actually is.

At Toowoomba, west of Brisbane, it felt like -4.6 degrees early on Tuesday, even though the official temperature was 3.1 degrees.

It was similar in other southern inland communities, where the “feels like” temperature was at or slightly below zero.

NSW Police urged drivers, riders and pedestrians to stay safe as the wild weather hit.

Assistant Commissioner Michael Corboy said roads would be slippery and visibility poor, and stressed the need to go slow and follow directions.

“It’s not just your life at risk – it’s the lives of the emergency service workers some of whom are volunteers,” he said.

The NSW State Emergency Service has received almost 400 calls for help since Monday up and down the coast, from as far south as Eden up to the mid north coast.

In Sydney, there have been 185 requests for assistance – with Sutherland, Warringah and Blacktown the worst affected areas.

“Most of the jobs are related to trees coming down, with some damage to roofs or property in general,” the NSW SES’s Ilana Pender-Rose said.

This week’s wild weather follows an early blast of winter last week for the southern states. It brought heavy snow to skifields, leading to an early start to the ski season for some.

-with AAP