Victorians have breathed a sigh of relief as a welcome cool change arrived on Monday afternoon after sweltering conditions across Australia’s south-east.
South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria have been battling through a scorching heatwave, with temperatures soaring into the 40s in some areas.
The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) delivered some encouraging news for Melbourne via its Twitter account on Monday afternoon, signalling a forecast cool change would arrive sooner than earlier expected.
“Your prayers have been answered, Melbourne! The cool change has sped up, and is now expected through the city within the next hour,” @BOM_Vic tweeted at 12.57pm.
“The temperature dropped 10 degrees in an hour as the front moved through Avalon around midday.”
After residents endured stifling conditions through Sunday and Monday, with little relief overnight, news of a predicted cool change was more than welcome.
The BOM earlier confirmed parts of Victoria had remained in the low 30s during the night, with Warracknabeal recording a minimum temperature of 29 degrees.
Homes lost, traffic chaos
A total fire ban remained in place on Monday across the three NSW Riverina districts and in six Victorian districts including the Mallee, Wimmera, Northern Country, North East and North Central and East Gippsland.
Two homes are feared to have been either damaged or destroyed in the Cherry Gardens fire, which has burnt through more than 2500 hectares of land.
The bushfire has been downgraded but remains uncontrolled in the hills south-east of Adelaide in South Australia.
Meanwhile, there were chaotic scenes on a major Melbourne freeway with traffic diverted in both directions after a truck carrying toilet paper caught alight shortly before 11am.
‘Captain Obvious’: Professor Sutton
Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton used his Twitter account to caution against a dismissive approach to the danger of extremely hot weather.
“Some might think I’m being ‘Captain Obvious’ here but heat still kills, as you and BoM well know,” Professor Sutton wrote.
“And yes, hot days happen in summer – but this is the first real flush of extreme heat for some months so our bodies won’t be acclimatised as they might be later on.”
Ambulance Victoria took the opportunity to post a list of emergency contacts, as demand for their services is likely to spike during the heatwave.
Yet while temperatures dipped in Victoria, heat will linger in Sydney and NSW until southern NSW is hit by the wind change on Tuesday.
BOM NSW manager Agata Imielska said Australia Day temperatures in western Sydney would top 40 degrees but coastal areas would benefit from a sea breeze, reaching about 35 degrees.
Overnight temperatures on Monday are expected to remain high, approaching 30 degrees, but heat records are unlikely to tumble this week.
“Tomorrow we will see a change move across (NSW), starting across the south, bringing cloud and rain in the morning to southern areas, so we will see cooler temperatures,” Ms Imielska said.
Canberra will cop weather in the low-30s on Australia Day before a late shower.
NSW Surf Life Saving chief executive Steve Pearce said strong northerly gusts and strong ocean swells – combined with high temperatures – would make conditions challenging for swimmers and lifeguards.
Five people have drowned in NSW in the past seven days while another two men drowned in separate incidents in Victoria on Saturday.
Drownings are 2.4 times more likely to occur in Australia on public holidays and young men are almost twice as likely to drown on a public holiday.
“We see it to be the largest Australia Day in the past five years,” Mr Pearce said.
“It’s going to be an absolutely splendid day for the beach. But it’s vitally important that when you come down to the beaches, you must look for those patrolled locations, where the red and yellow flags are flying.”
NSW Ambulance’s Kay Armstrong said people needed to stay hydrated and look out for each other during the heatwave.