Australian Weather News

November, December 1996

Kangaroo Island Bushfires

Monday 23 December 1996 15.30

Following hot northerly winds during the weekend, a major bushfire is burning in the Seal Bay area on the south coast of Kangaroo Island. Late yesterday, it had burnt through two-thirds of the Cape Gantheaume Conservation Park, and the smoke from the fire reduced visibility in Adelaide, 100km to the northeast. Four hundred firefighters and two water bomber aircraft were fighting the fire, and 50 properties had been evacuated, though there was no property loss. (ABC)

$100m Damage in Singleton Storm

Monday 16 December 1996 11.00

A clean-up is only winding down today after a violent thunderstorm last Wednesday 11 December struck the NSW town of Singleton, 40km northwest of Newcastle in the Hunter Valley. The storm struck shortly after 17.00 and lasted just under 30 minutes. Hail up to tennis ball size, but mostly golf ball size, caused the greatest damage, with paint stripped from house walls, roofs smashed, and cars, nurseries and vegetable crops damaged. The State Emergency Services have repaired over 1000 homes, and the area has been officially declared a natural disaster area. The hospital was badly damaged, with repairs expected to take up to 3 weeks, and schools in the town will close one week early to allow repair work to be done. The total repair bill for the storm is estimated to be about $100m.

Heavy rain (the official Singleton station reported 56mm) and storm force wind gusts were experienced. One house was demolished when it was blown off its footings and anchor chains were snapped. One man was killed in the storm when his car ran off the road between Singleton and Maitland. (ABC, ABCTV, SBS)

Cyclone Nicholas crosses WA coast

Monday 16 December 1996 12.10

The first cyclone of the season to cross the Australian coast made landfall between Derby and Broome yesterday morning with a central pressure estimated at 988hPa and gale force winds. The main effect of the weakening system has been to produce flood rainfall across the Kimberley area of Western Australia. Heaviest 24 hour falls to 09.00 WST on Sunday were Kimberley Downs 162mm, Debesa 134, Derbo Aerodrome 109, Meda 155 and Mt Hart Station 131.

Heavy rain and storms hit much of eastern Australia

Saturday 7/12/96 22.00

In a repeat performance of last weekend, a low pressure system which originated as a heat low over WA has brought widespread unsettled weather to eastern Australia. This time, however, the low headed down the west coast of Tasmania last night, rather than across southern NSW as happened last weekend. However, remarkably widespread rain has occurred, as before, in the moist northerly airflow ahead of the trough attached to the low. The atmospheric mechanics have been quite dramatic over parts of NSW and Qld, with high humidity, and strong up-motion ahead of the trough enhancing an already unstable situation. Interestingly, the longer range forecast charts are looking at a similar event for later next week.

The Bureau of Meteorology rain map for Australia for the 24 hours to 09.00 today shows the extent of the rain, with falls above the old inch widespread across NSW, widespread but more scattered in Qld, and also in the north of the NT, northeast Vic and eastern and northwestern Tas. (Ignore the spurious 500mm+ isohyets in the NT!) A number of centres reported falls of between 50 and 110mm. Highest registrations in the 24 hours to 09.00 today were:

NSW: In the northwest, Coroda (Palaroo) 110mm, Burren Junction 78, Gwabegar 75, Upper Horton 73, Somerton 77, Gunnedah 72, Walgett 80, Narrabri 101, Coonabarabran 77 and Collarenebri 61, whilst in the southeast Batlow reported 52 and Charlotte Pass 85.

Qld: In the central west, highlands and lowlands, Rolleston 94, Longreach 53, Tambo 78, Woleebee 92, Camoola Park 78; Byfield on the east coast 72, Amby 67 and Yuleba 61 in the Maranoa, and Chesterton 59 in the Warrego.

Vic: Falls Creek 61, Hunters Hill 52 and Acherton 59, all in the northeast mountains and Alps

Tas: Gray 38 and St Mary's 33 in the northeast, and Wynyard 31 and Smithton 30 in the northwest.

During Saturday, the main rain band moved out to sea as cooler, drier southeasterlies swept in behind the trough. Storms and rain continued in northern NSW, much of Qld and the north of the NT ahead of the trough, but falls were patchier--several locations had falls of 20 to 30mm during the 12 hours to 21.00, but most locations had less than 10. In suburban Sydney, a storm gave Bankstown 26mm between 17.00 and 18.00, several hours after the passage of the trough. The southeasterlies are expected to push through most of Qld and NT on Sunday.

Heavy storm hits Dubbo

Thursday 5/12/96 21.40

A thunderstorm at Dubbo this afternoon dropped 17mm of rain on the city in 15 minutes at about 14.30. Wind at the nearby Dubbo airport gusted to 54 knots (100km/h), and some damage and blackouts from the wind occurred. Between Wellington and Molong, hail "up to a foot deep in places" was reported. (Don White's Weatherwatch)

Bushfire update

Wednesday 4/12/96 10.15

An early estimate of the damage bill from SA's weekend bushfires is that it will exceed $1.2m. More than 80 fires broke out over the weekend, involving 2000 firefighters and burning in excess of 38,000 hectares. (ABC)

In southeastern Qld and northern NSW, overnight rain has helped extinguish fires. Some thunderstorms brought heavy falls -- Toowoomba reported 34mm between 03.00 and 06.00 this morning, whilst Archerfield, a suburb of Brisbane, reported 39mm between 06.00 and 09.00.

Bushfires again cause problems in NSW and SA

Tuesday 3/12/96 18.30

Two major bushfires were still burning out of control in the Severn/Inverell area this afternoon. In SA, the fire which has been burning for several days in the Mt Brown area east of Port Augusta, is moving into inaccessible country without having been brought under control. In both areas, temperatures today have been in the low 30s with moderate winds. The fires in Qld's southeast are under control despite temperatures in eastern Qld today around 8 to 10 degrees above normal, i.e. high 30s to low 40s.

Bushfire threat eases as temps closer to normal

Tuesday 3/12/96 10.00

Fire threats in Qld and SA eased overnight as winds dropped and temperatures returned to more normal ranges. However, several fires in the Severn/Glen Innes area of NSW were still causing concern this morning.

Well above average temperatures yesterday were confined to southeast Qld and the Hunter and Sydney areas of NSW. Temperatures in these areas were up to 8 or 9 degrees above average, reaching 40 at Rockhampton and Gayndah and 33 to 35 in the Sydney/Newcastle area.

Heat, cold, snow, bushfires and dust as low crosses southern NSW

Monday 2/12/96 09.20 updated 18.20

An active low pressure system below 995hPa, which began as a heat depression over WA late last week, crossed southern NSW overnight Sunday/Monday bringing extremes of weather to half the continent.

Abnormally hot conditions, often accompanied by strong N to NW winds, existed north of the low with exceptionally cold conditions reported to the south (see updated stories below). Snow fell at Charlotte Pass on the NSW Alps Sunday morning, while bushfires accompanied by strong winds caused problems for firefighters in southeast Qld, the Flinders Ranges of SA, and around Severn and Glen Innes in NSW where 50 homes were threatened Monday afternoon and 12000 ha of bush and grass were burnt. Worst Qld fires were around Chinchilla, Toowoomba, Inglewood, Ravensbourne, Manchester and Grandchester. Over 80 fires were burning Monday afternoon in SA, many caused last night by lightning. The worst was east of Port Augusta at Mt Brown. (ABC)

The strong winds have also whipped up some intense dust storms in southern NT and western NSW overnight. Most unusually, a land gale warning is current (as at 09.00 Monday) for the whole of NSW; strong winds overnight unroofed a house at Kurrajong, 50km NW of Sydney, and caused blackouts to 7000 homes in northern Sydney suburbs and the Central Coast (ABC).

Another unusual feature of the present weather has been the size of temperature differences over small areas. The zone dividing cold south from hot north, which lay through southern NSW Monday morning, appears to be only about 100km across -- at 06.00 Monday, for example, Deniliquin reported a temperature of 10.7 whilst Griffith, 160km NE, reported 24.5. Variations in temperatures have also been caused by strong, hot upper winds mixing down to the surface to blow out local temperature inversions and weak sea breezes. In Sydney at 03.00 Monday, temperatures at reporting stations were all between 16.6 and 20.9 degrees. But 3 hours later, Sydney Airport, still with a weak breeze off Botany Bay, reported 19.3, and Bankstown, with light winds, 17.8, but Canterbury's temperature had risen 10.7 degrees to 27.6 in a 14 knot NW wind, and the Sydney City temperature was 27.9.

Cold in Vic and southern NSW

Sunday 1/12/96 23.30 updated Tuesday 18.20

Sunday was an exceptionally cold day over most of Victoria and southern NSW with many places reporting maximum temperatures 10 degrees or more below average. Greatest departures were 15 at Castlemaine (where the max was only 11), 14 at Wangaratta (15) and Swan Hill (16), and 13 at Benalla (15), Mt Hotham (3), Maryborough (13), Hamilton (10), and Tocumwal in NSW (17). Only a few hundred kilometres northwest, Whyalla recorded a top temperature of 41 degrees, 14 above the December average, whilst Oodnadatta recorded 45. The cold, wet weather and nearby heat are being caused partly by a deepening low over South Australia.

On both Monday and Tuesday, maximum temperatures at most locations in southeast Victoria were again 8 to 9 degrees below average.

High temperatures in northern Australia

Saturday 30/11/96 15.00 updated Monday 18.20

A pre-wet season heatwave continues to produce well above average temperatures across the north of Western Australia, inland Northern Territory and Queensland, and northern NSW. During Friday 29/11, temperatures in the low to high 40s were commonplace in this area, with many places in southern Qld and northern NSW reporting departures from normal maxima of 10 degrees or more. Coffs Harbour's top of 39 degrees was 14 above the November average, whilst Yamba (37), Moree (43) and Goondiwindi (44) were 13 above. Charleville's 43.1 maximum was the highest on record for November (ABC). Highest reported temperature was 47 at Birdsville, whilst Windorah's top temp was 46 for the second day in a row. By Saturday, the area of extreme heat had contracted to inland Northern Territory, central and southeast Qld and around the SA/WA border. Longreach's top temp of 46.6 was a December record (ABC). Rabbit Flat and Yulara in the NT recorded 45, as did Julia Creek in Qld. Greatest departures from normal were 11 at Cook (SA 43) and Nambour (Qld 40). Southern Northern Territory experienced a very warm night, with Sunday minima 12 above normal at Jervois (32) and Yulara (31). On Sunday, the heatwave affected southeastern NT, northeast SA, and much of Queensland. Top temperature was 46, shared by Windorah, Thargomindah and Quilpie. Monday morning's minimum temperature of 30 degrees at Mt Isa, Qld, set an all-time record high for any minimum temperature at the town (ABC)

Gales in Victoria and Tasmania

Saturday 30/11/96 15.10 updated Sunday 11.20

A cold front sweeping across southeastern Australia Friday afternoon produced gales in its vicinity, and winds continue strong to gale force in the area today. Strong northwesterlies turned squally westerly with the change, with exposed stations reporting average winds around 50 knots. Peak gusts were 79 knots at Wilsons Promintory, 57 at Falls Creek, 52 at Fawkner Beacon on Port Phillip Bay, and 58 at Maatsuyker Island off the southern tip of Tasmania. Winds late Saturday morning were still strong to gale force at coastal and mountain stations in the two states, with Maatsuyker reporting 50 knot average winds, with gusts to 62 knots. Queenstown and Strahan on the west coast of Tasmania reported hail in the active WSW stream weather, while snow was reported from the Tasmanian highlands. During Saturday afternoon, winds around southern Tasmania increased further, with Maatsuyker reporting an average windspeed of 62 knots at 15.00 local, and gusts to 73 knots. Hobart city reported gusts to 42 knots. By Sunday morning, winds had eased over Victoria and northern Tasmania, but gales, with squalls to 45 knots were still being reported at south coastal stations.

High temperatures and fire weather in Victoria and Tasmania

Tuesday 26/11/96 11.30

Hot dry northwesterly winds ahead of a cooler change swept across Victoria and Tasmania yesterday bringing termperatures up to 12 degrees above average for November. Late last week, Tasmania was experiencing snowfalls down to the 500m level; yesterday at 3pm local time, Hobart's city temperature was 29.6, 12 above the normal maximum for November, and the relative humitidy was 11% with a 23 knot norwester. At the same time, Maatsuyker Island off the south coast reported a 50 knot NNW wind gusting to 62, and a top temperature of 21, 7 above.

In Victoria, top temperatures were in the high 20s to low 30s, with many places reporting strong to gale force winds during the day. Lakes Entrance's top temp of 32 degrees was 12 above average. Squalls with the wind change gusted to 64 knots at Wilsons Promintory.

Heavy rain causes floods in northeast NSW

Monday 25/11/96 13.00

An unusually slow moving upper level trough and cold pool have been responsible for substantial falls of rain on the New South Wales Mid North Coast and Northern Tablelands over the weekend. The Bureau of Meteorology's daily rainfall charts for the 24 hours to 0900 local (22z previous day utc) on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday show the extent and amount of rain; highest rainfall totals for the three days to 0900 local time Monday 25/11/96 (961124:22z) included Bellbrook 254mm, Bellingen 256, Coffs Harbour 298, Kempsey 180, Smoky Cape Lighthouse 295, Taree 232, Wauchope 236, Yarras (Mt Seaview) 244, and top score that I can find, Comboyne 331. Only minor flooding was reported in streams in the area (Orara, Hastings, Manning) due to the protracted period over which rain fell and the fact that catchments were dry after below average rainfall in recent months. However, serious damage was caused by flooding in central Coffs Harbour on Saturday evening. Between 3 and 9pm local time, 150mm was recorded at the Airport, just south of the city. (For further details of this event, see Michael Bath's Australian Severe Weather Page article)