Australian Weather News

January 1997

Flooding in NSW and Qld as rain eases

Friday 31 January 1997 19.20

Rain has eased over NSW and Queensland today as the cloud mass which brought heavy rain over previous days has become patchy. Apart from a thunderstorm which brought 17mm to Charleville in Qld, all other falls in the affected area between 09.00 and 15.00 today were below 10mm, and mostly below 5mm. In the 24 hours to 09.00 this morning, however, many centres in central and southwest Qld and the northeastern half of NSW reported falls between 25 and 60mm. Highest in Qld were Tambo 88 and Mt Playfair 86 (Central Highlands), Thallon 67 (Darling Downs), and Woodlands 81 and Nive Downs 62 (Warrego). In NSW, Laurieton (Mid-North Coast) top scored with 100, followed by Murrurundi 74 (Upper Hunter) and Mungindi and Tambar Springs 50 (NW Slopes/Plains).

To get an idea of the extent of the rain in the last few days, see the BoM's weekly maps for Australia and the Murray/Darling basin

The flood situation late this afternoon was:

Torrential rain in Broome, WA

Thursday 30 January 1997 14.55 updated 18.20

Massive convergence of moist air into a low in the monsoonal trough over the Kimberleys in northern WA appears to be the cause of exceptionally heavy rain in Broome overnight. Broome Airport recorded 477mm in the 24 hours to 09.00 WST this morning, with the ABC reporting that 435mm fell in the 5 hours between 21.00 yesterday and 02.00 this morning with 188mm in one 80 minute period. The 3-hourly synoptic reports indicate 257mm fell 21.00 - 00.00, and 168mm 00.00 - 03.00 WST. Broome is isolated and experiencing problems with power and communications. The only other rain reports in the area so far to hand are 128mm at Derby and 99 at Curtin Airport, south of Derby, 65mm of which fell between 15.00 and 18.00 WST yesterday. The deluge tops off two weeks of heavy rain in the Kimberleys, where there are widespread traffic dislocations with even the Great Northern Highway, the major road in the area, impassable between Derby and Kununnura. (ABC)

Widespread heavy rain in NSW and Qld

Thursday 30 January 1997 15.00 updated 20.00

Rain with some heavy falls has been occurring across the northern two-thirds of NSW and much of Queensland over the past two days, and is forecast to continue raising the possibility of widespread flooding. The cause is convergence of a very moist northeasterly airstream into a persistent, nearly stationary trough lying through central Qld and northeast and central NSW, supported in places by colder air aloft.

In NSW, the heaviest rain in the 24 hours to 09.00 this morning was in a triangle from the Northwest Plains to the Mid-North Coast and Illawarra, including the Sydney metropolitan area. Heaviest reports were 134 at Narrabri West, 113 at Garah and 105 at Boomi, all on the NW Plains, and 114 at Laurieton and 109 at Port Macquarie on the Mid-North Coast. In Sydney, the highest reports were 92 at Gordon and 90 at Mosman. 90mm of Narrabri's total fell in the 6 hours between 09.00 and 15.00 yesterday. Other high short duration totals were 27mm between 09.00 and 12.00 yesterday in Sydney City, 47mm between 09.00 and 15.00 at Prospect Reservoir in Sydney's west, and 71mm at Port Macquarie and 51 at Smoky Cape between 21.00 and 03.00 this morning. Warnings of minor to moderate flooding for the Namoi downstream from Wee Waa have been issued.

In Queensland, rain has been widespread but with patchy heavy falls, the heaviest near the trough line. Heavy falls in the 24 hours to 09.00 today included Augathella (Warrego) 115, Duneira (Central Highlands) 116 and Toobeah (West Darling Downs) 181mm in 48 hours. Warnings are current for minor to moderate flooding in the Warrego River up and downstream from Charleville, moderate flooding on the Barcoo river, and moderate flooding in the Weir River, near the NSW border southeast of St George.

Final update on Victorian fires

Thursday 23 January 1997 19.10

It's been officially confirmed that three people died in Tuesday's fires in the Dandenongs. Thirty-three houses were destroyed. Authorities believe the most damaging fires were deliberately lit. (ABC)

Temperature extremes across SE Australia yesterday

Thursday 23 January 1997 12.00

The tail end of hot northwesterlies in eastern Victoria, and the following band of heavy, widespread rain which affected Tasmania, Victoria and parts of SA yesterday, made it a day of great temperature variation in the southeast of the continent. At Orbost, the temperature reached 38 degrees, 13 above normal, before cooler weather arrived late in the day. Stations in the west of Victoria and NSW reported top temps to 15.00 yesterday as much as 15 below average: Broken Hill 17 (-15), Balranald 18 (-15), Swan Hill 18 (-13) and Kerang 19 (-12). Alice Springs also had an unseasonably cold day yesterday with a maximum of only 20 (-16) to 15.00.

Tropical Cyclone Pancho down to 925hPa

Thursday 23 January 1997 18.50

TC Pancho, which skirted the Cocos Islands on Tuesday, has continued to move westwards and intensify in ocean waters well away from land. It is now a very intense, compact storm with an estimated central pressure of 925hPa, winds of 70 to 100 knots out to just 30 nautical miles, and 35/45 knots out to 100 miles. At 0400 UTC it was located about 800km WSW of the Cocos Islands, moving west at 2 knots.

Week of records for Hobart

Thursday 23 January 1997 11.55 corrected - Hobart max temp information incorrect and removed. (Thanks Peter Wagg)

Hobart's 73mm rainfall in the 24 hours to 09.00 EDST yesterday was its second heaviest January gauging, and the heaviest since 1916. If the 24 hours were counted to 15.00 yesterday, it would have been Hobart's wettest January day with 89mm. Hobart's minimum temperature on Tuesday 21 January of 22.4 was its highest January minimum, breaking the 1973 record by 0.4. The highest minimum ever recorded in Hobart was 22.7 in February 1982. (Don White's Weatherwatch)

Heavy rains bring relief to heat and fires in SE Australia

Wednesday 22 January 1997 12.05

A band of heavy rain has been moving through southeast SA, western Victoria and Tasmania during the past 24 hours bringing widespread falls of 20 to 50mm, and helping firefighters to control blazes in Victoria. A fire is still burning near Upper Ferntree Gully in the Dandenongs east of Melbourne, but is under control. It was in this area yeaterday that 40 homes were destroyed - 30 at Ferny Creek and 12 in Upwey - and two lives lost at Ferny Creek. Altogether, 1500 firefighters fought 85 fires across Victoria yesterday, and there were 700 evacuations in the Dandenongs, Arthurs Seat and Moorabbin (ABC)

The heaviest rain was in southeast Tasmania where falls are expected to continue for much of today. In the 24 hours to 09.00 today, most gauges in SE Tasmania recorded between 50 and 80mm, with Cygnet the highest on 87mm. Hobart City recorded 73. In Victoria, falls were heaviest in the West Coast and Plains districts, and particularly the Otways, where Colac reported 57 and Gellibrand River 49. In SA, falls of more than 10mm were reported from all districts except the far northwest, with the heaviest in a band from the southeast to the Flinders Ranges. Terowie recorded 50mm and Adelaide Airport 35. The rain is falling from a band of cloud associated with the trough moving slowly across the region, and enhanced by the development yesterday of a small low south of Kangaroo Island.

Major fires destroy 28 houses in Victoria as heatwave continues

Tuesday 21 January 1997 18.40

Twenty-eight houses have already been destroyed in a major bushfire burning out of control in the Dandenong Mountains 50km east of Melbourne. Most have been lost in the Ferny Creek - Tremont area, where 700 firefighters are trying to contain the fire in the face of strong northerly winds and temperatures in the high 30s. Two South Australian water bomber aircraft have joined the fight. At least 7 major fires were reported burning in the Dandenongs earlier this afternoon with all major roads blocked. Fires at Mt Dandenong and Kalorama are now under control. Upwey and Belgrave were the current trouble spots a short time ago. Elsewhere in Victoria, fires were reported at Lake Eildon, Arthur's Seat on the Mornington Peninsula, Gellibrand in the Otway Ranges, Creswick near Ballarat, and Seaspray in Gippsland where houses and campers have been evacuated. In Sydney, temperatures around 30 degrees and gusty afternoon seabreezes are causing problems with fires at Marsfield, 15km from the city centre, and near Ingleburn. (ABC)

Temperatures across Victoria and Tasmania reached the high 30s this afternoon, with reports of N to NW winds of 25 to 35 kts widespread. Top maxima to 15.00 in Victoria were 41 at Avalon, and 40 at Geelong Airport and Laverton, both west of Melbourne. Melbourne City's top temp was 39.7 at 15.50 EDST. In Tasmania, temperatures were highest on the east and southeast coasts, reaching 39 at Orford, and 38 at Swansea, St Helens, Hobart City and Hobart Airport. Many locations in both states reported maxima 10 degrees or more above average, the greatest departures being +17 at Orford (39) Tas, +16 at Wilsons Promintory (36) and Cape Otway (37) in Vic, and +16 at Hobart City and Airport (38).

One factor perhaps ameliorating today's fire situation has been relatively high humidity, with dew points typically from 5 to 15 degrees in Victoria and 10 to 15 in Tasmania's east. At 15.00, a cold front was passing through Hobart and approaching Geelong, with temperatures 100km behind the change as low as 15 to 18. Southeastern South Australia, where temperatures above 40 were common yesterday reported temperatures in the mid to high teens today as a rainband moved across the region giving widespread falls of 15 to 30mm between 0900 and 1800.

TC Pancho misses Cocos Islands (just)

Tuesday 21 January 1997 19.05

Severe (Category 4) Tropical Cyclone Pancho passed within about 200km northwest of the Cocos Islands, to the northwest of WA, early this afternoon causing gales with wind gusts to 100km/h. At 13.00 WST, the cyclone was moving WSW at 13km/h away from the islands, and was deepening with a central pressure estimated at 950hPa.

Hot night sets record in southeastern Australia

Tuesday 21 January 1997 14.10 updated Wednesday 22 January 1997 12.20

Overnight temperatures in excess of 10 degrees above average were the norm in Victoria, southeastern SA and parts of Tasmania and NSW last night. In Victoria, minimum temperatures as high as 16 above average were reported from Colac (25) and Wonthaggi (28), the highest being 29 at Avalon and Laverton. Melbourne City's minimum of 28.8 at 06.20 was the warmest ever January minimum. In SA, Keith on 29 and Naracoorte on 28 were +16 on normal, and Port Pirie's minimum of 30 was the highest. In Tasmania, minima were 5 to 11 above normal with Flinders Island on 24 (+11) top scoring whiilst Hobart City's 22 was +10, also a record January high minimum. In NSW, high minima were restricted to towns near the Victorian Border, with Deniliquin and Balranald both reporting 27 (+11).

Heatwave continues in SA, Vic and Tas; Fires flare

Monday 20 January 1997 18.20 updated 19.25

Many places in Victoria, Tasmania and southern SA reported top temperatures 10 degrees or more above average today. In Victoria, the top report was 42 degrees shared by Warracknabeal, Port Fairy, Avalon, Geelong Airport and Heywood. Greatest departures from normal were +20 at Cape Nelson and +19 at Cape Otway and Portland Airport. Melbourne City reported 41.2, 15 above average, and the hottest day since 3/3/93. At mid afternoon, two major fires were burning at Campbellfield, north of melbourne, and Langwarren near Frankston, and almost 50 grassfires had been reported.

In Tasmania, Melton Mowbray in the Midlands and Swansea on the east coast both reported 39 degrees, both 17 above average. Other hot spots were Bushy Park, 38, St Helens 36 and Maydena and Queenstown 35. Hobart experienced a relatively mild 32. In South Australia, stong to gale force winds added to the discomfort of high temperatures. Cook reported 43, Murray Bridge and Keith 42, and Adelaide City 37. The heat only just extended over the border into NSW, with Balranald and Deniliquin reaching 40. A large fire near Mt Compass, south of Adelaide, had burnt through 400 hectares by mid afternoon.

Many locations were sitting on their maximum temperatures when readings were taken at 3pm (2pm standard time), so higher readings, and some records may be reported when 09.00 observations come in tomorrow. The hot weather is set to continue tomorrow. There are total fire bans covering all Victoria and parts of NSW, and fire weather warnings in Tasmania.

Hot temperatures move across southern Australia

Monday 20 January 1997 10.30

A hot airmass which has been building for several days in Western Australia moved into SA and western Victoria yesterday bringing well above normal temperatures. Saturday produced maximum temps of 40 degrees or more across much of southern and central WA, with a top temp of 44 at Murchison and top departures above normal of 13 at Esperance (39) and 11 at Carnarvon (42). On Sunday, cooler SE winds gave relief to much of southern and central WA, but extreme temperatures occurred in the state's southeast: Eyre and Eucla, both on the Great Australian Bight, reported maxima of 47 and 46 respectively. Eucla's maximum was 20 above normal.

Meanwhile, temperautes in the high 30s and low 40s, mostly 8 to 12 degrees above normal, were reported yesterday across most of SA, the western half of Victoria and southwest NSW. Cook, Ceduna, Kyancutta and Tarcoola reported top temps of 42 in SA, Ouyen reported 40 in Victoria, with Ivanhoe on 40 in NSW. Overnight minima this morning were commonly 5 to 14 degrees above normal in the same area with 29 at Cook, Cleve, Ceduna and Port Pirie the highest. The hot airmass is expected to track slowly ESE over SA, southern NSW, Vic and Tas today and tomorrow.

Record Brisbane minimum January temperature

Friday 17 January 1997 18.30

Brisbane's minimum temperature of 15.7 on Thursday morning, 16/1/97, was the coldest January minimum on record at the Airport site, breaking the previous record of 16.1 set on 27 January 1965. Northeast NSW and southeast Qld experienced an unusually cold January morning; Tenterfield's minimum of 7 degrees was 8 below normal, Casino's 11 was also 8 down, and Murwillumbah's 14 was 6 below the January average. The cause is a little difficult to understand without detailed study, but is likely to be related to the pool of cold air that has been located inland along the NSW/Qld border for some days (see 14 January story below). Eastward movement of this airmass, combined with an overnight clearance of cloud is a possible explanation of what is a rather unexpected record.

Australian mean temperature for 1996 fifth-hottest since 1910

Monday 13 January 1997 10.05 updated Wednesday 15 January 1997 22.00

A press release from the Bureau of Meteorology says the average temperature over Australia during 1996 was the fifth highest on record, being 0.65 degrees celcius above the 1910 to 1996 mean. More than half of the top 20 warmest years since 1910 have occurred in the late 1980s, and the 1990s. Preliminary temperature maps for 1996 for Australia show the average maximum and minimum temperatures for 1996, and the variation from normal of the maximum and minimum. The full text of the press release, and accompanying graphics is here.

Warm weather continues in SA, cold in northern NSW, southern Qld

Tuesday 14 January 1997 11.30

A hot day yesterday was followed by another very warm night in southern SA and western Victoria. Ceduna topped the maximum temp list yesterday with 43 degrees (+14 on normal), while in the far south of the state Cape Northumberland registered 35 (+13). Maxima were mostly 8 degrees or higher above normal in the southern half of the state.Overnight minima were mostly 3 to 8 above average, the highest being Mt Barker 25 (+13), Mt Gambier 23 (+12), and Pt Pirie 28, Meningie 24 and Naracoorte 23 (all +11).

Meanwhile, inland areas along the NSW/Qld border shivered in well below average daytime temperatures accompanied by rain yesterday. Brewarrina's temperature reached only 21 degrees (-14), with Cunnamulla 27 and Collarenebri 25 (both -9). Cunnamulla recorded 39mm of steady rain during yesterday evening.

Both extremes can be attributed to the remains of Tropical Cyclone Rachel. The hot air advection over SA is occuring on the southeastern side of the low pressure system that was Rachel, whilst the cold and rain over the NSW/Qld border is the result of cloud from the Ex TC being revived by a localised trough and colder low-level air which arrived in the region from the SW at the weekend.

Bureau second commercialisation report possible in February

Monday 13 January 1997 15.10

Driven by Australian Government policy, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology is moving down a user pays path for data, forecasts and other information. Elements of this are now starting to surface on the Bureau's web pages

This process has so far been the subject of two reviews conducted by Professor Ralph Slatyer. The first, which was completed around the middle of last year, reported on the Bureau's scope to commercialise or extend cost recovery. The second, which a Bureau source indicated is likely to be available during February 1997, has further examined "the scope and market opportunity to commercialise or corporatise Bureau activities", and "British, New Zealand and other relevant international experience with commercial/cost recovery strategies."

Given the near total non-availability of free or low-cost data and weather information in Britain and New Zealand following their decision to take the user-pays path, the Slatyer Reviews, and the Government's and Bureau's response to them should be of concern to all Australians, and it is surprising that there has not been more press interest in this area. Farmers, and others who have been used to getting essential rainfall, climatic and forecast information for free, or very little cost, could find the scene very different if Australia follows the European and New Zealand example.

Warm night in South Australia

Monday 13 January 1997 13.50

Central southern parts of SA experienced very high minimum temperatures last night. At Adelaide Airport, the temperature fell only to 26.4 degrees, 11 above the normal January minimum. Adelaide City (26), Port Pirie (26), Maitland (24), Tarcoola (27) and Alice Springs (30) were all 9 above average. Warm air is being advected from the north between a 1027hPa high east of Tasmania and the remains of TC Rachel, now a heat low of around 1000hPa west of Alice Springs.

Ex TC Drena gives wild weather in New Zealand

Monday 13 January 1997 10.10

A slowly weakening ex tropical cyclone Drena moved slowly down the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand last Friday and Saturday bringing hurricane force winds to the north of the island, and widespread gales and heavy rain. Cape Reinga, at the northern tip of North Island reported mean winds of 65 knots at noon NZDT (+13 UTC) on the 9th, and 51kts three hours later. The ex cyclone passed through Cook Strait late Saturday afternoon, then gave gales and rain to the east coast of South Island as it moved SSE into the Southern Ocean.

Cyclone Fergus aftermath

Monday 13 Jamuary 1997 09.45

Reports coming in from outlying parts of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands are indicating that damage from Tropical Cyclone Fergus, which passed by the island on 30 December may be more widespread and severe than at first thought. Disaster relief officials have begun assessing damage, and more affected areas may be declared disaster areas later this week. Rennell and Bellona Islands, and parts of Guadalcanal have already been declared disaster areas.

Cyclone update

Thursday 9 January 1997 18.40 EDST

Former Tropical Cyclone Rachel, now a rain depression over south central WA, has been bringing relatively heavy falls of rain to one of the normally driest parts of Australia. In the 24 hours to 09.00 WST this morning, Wiluna in central WA recorded 72mm, 40% of its median annual rainfall. In the same rainfall area, Earaheedy reported 78mm and Lorna Glen 122. In the 6 hours to 15.00WST, Leonora reported 22mm, Laverton 19 and Leinster 20.

The presence of the ex-cyclone has caused some extraordinary temperature variations today. Well above normal maxima were reported from normally cool south coastal stations (Esperance 38 (+12), Ongerup 40 (+11)), whilst typical WA hotspots were well below the average (Meekatharra 27 (-11), Leonora 19 (-19 repeat -19), Wiluna 23 (-15))

TC Drena paralleled the southwest coast of New Caledonia yesterday bringing winds reportedly as high as 160km/h (ABC), yet damage was relatively light and there were no fatalities. At 11.00EDST today, Drena was almost midway between the southern tip of New Caledonia and the northern tip of New Zealand, heading SSE at 15kts, and weakening. Its track will bring it close to the east of Norfolk Island around 22.00EDST tonight. The Norfold Island airport Met Office reported at 18.00 local time a pressure of 983.6hPa (a fall of 22.4hPa in the past 15 hours), a light ESE wind and 80mm rain in the past 9 hours. The remains of Drena are expected to merge with a deepening low already in the central Tasman and to track just to the west or across the North Island of NZ overnight, bringing heavy rain and winds to 130km/h.

Cyclone Rachel downgraded as it moves into inland Western Australia

Wednesday 8 January 1997 13.10 EDST

Tropical Cyclone Rachel crossed the WA coast at Port Hedland yesterday soon after 16.00 WST. The town experienced wind gusts variously reported as 170 and 190km/h and power was lost to a reported 80% of Port Hedland and South Hedland. First light indicated widespread but superficial damage, with trees down on houses, fence and roof damage, and many downed power lines. No injuries were reported. Roads in the area have been closed by flooding, though the top rainfalls in the 24 hours to 09.00 WST this morning were relatively light: Port Hedland Airport recorded 75mm, Wittenoom 170, Mulga Downs 167 and Yarrie 196.

At 10.00 WST, the BoM downgraded the cyclone to a rain bearing depression. At 09.00 WST it was estimated to be 90km NW of the mining town of Newman and moving SE at 23km/h with a central pressure of 995hPa and top wind gusts around 80km/h.

The wind at Port Hedland dropped quickly after the passage of the cyclone (I have not yet found any reference to whether the eye passed directly over the town). At 18.00 WST, the Port Hedland Airport met office reported a NW wind of 36kts, after which it dropped below gale strength. Unfortunately, the important 15.00 WST observation from Port Hedland did not make it into the Global Telecommunication System. Marble Bar reported estimated mean winds of 55kts at their 18.00, 21.00 and 00.00 observations overnight.

TC Drena menaces New Caledonia

Wednesday 8 January 1997 13.20

Tropical Cyclone Drena, with a central pressure of 950hPa, was located just west of the southern tip of New Caledonia at 11.00 EDST this morning, moving SE at about 15kts. The latest news report (ABC, 06.20) indicates winds averaging 150km/h with gusts to 215km/h affecting the north of the island, but at this time, Drena was located off the northwest tip. At that time, most phone lines were out in the north of the island, and only 6 of 33 power zones in the (country?) were operational.

Cyclone Rachel moving in on Port Hedland

Tuesday 7 January 1997 17.30 EDST

The latest warning from the Bureau of Meteorology, issued 14.00 WST (17.00 EDST) has Rachel located 45km north of Port Hedland moving south at 8 km/h. The latest synoptic report from Port Hedland (12.00 WST) gives a SE wind averaging 43 kts, visibility 3 km in light rain, barometer 992.4hPa, 15mm rain in past 3 hours, and a peak gust during the past 3 hours of 62kts. A gust of 71kts was reported between 03.00 and 06.00 this morning. An ABC news report timed at 13.28 EDST indicated damage so far had been minimal in Port hedland.

Cyclone Rachel intensifies

Tuesday 7 January 1997 13.40.EDST

All roads to Port Hedland, WA, are closed and people and boats are taking shelter as Tropical Cyclone Rachel continues to skirt the north west WA coast. The cyclone has strengthened during the past 24 hours, and at 09.00 WST had an estimated central pressure of 955hPa, with wind gusts to 200km/h near the centre. Its centre was 80km north of Port Hedland and 220km ENE of the mining port town of Karratha toward which it was moving at 15km/h.

This morning, Port Hedland's mean wind speeds at 03.00, 06.00 and 09.00 WST respectively were 38, 34 and 36kts, all from the SE, with 10, 18 and 26mm falling in each three hour period finishing those times.

Bedout Island automatic weather station, about 100km NE of Port Hedland, has sent the following hourly reports today (times WST):

03.00: wind 120/48 kts pressure 989.4
04.00: 110/53 986.7
05.00: 100/66 980.9
06.00: 070/69 976.8
07.00 050/68 979.8
08.00 030/57 984.9
09.00 020/48 990.5
To keep up to date with Cyclone Rachel, the best links are ABC news , satellite pix (see below) and the BoM's warnings and observations pages(use id/password of test/test).

WA Bushfire update

Tuesday 7 January 1997 13.30 EDST

Late yesterday afternoon, the fire in the Stirling Ranges National Park north of Albany was still out of control with a major backburning exercise about to begin in an attempt to bring it under control. 13,000 hectares of national park and 1400ha of private property had been burnt.

The fires in the Wooroloo and Wundowie areas east of Perth, which claimed 9 homes and part of Wooroloo Prison over the weekend, were under control. Over 10,000ha of bush and pasture has been burnt, leaving a major problem with livestock feed in the area.

The fires near Esperance were also under control, having burnt 2500ha. (ABC)

Bushfire flares in northern Tasmania

Tuesday 7 January 1997 13.35

A fire brought on by Sunday's hot temperatures and northerly winds was burning on a 2km front near the town of Rossarden in northern Tasmania early on Monday morning. (ABC)

Brief snow falls on Victorian alps

Tuesday 7 January 13.35

Light snow flurries were reported from the Victorian ski resorts of Mt Hotham and Falls Creek this morning as cooler air moved across the Alps in the wake of a cold front. Mt Hotham's 09.00 temperature was minus 1.0 and Fall's Creek's was 0.0. The cold change, which moved through Victoria yesterday and overnight, brought widespread moderate to heavy rain totals, mostly from thunderstorms. Among the highest were Falls Creek 48mm, Buchan 46 and Mt Nowa Nowa 44.

Heatwave eases in southern WA, but some bushfires continue

Saturday 4 January 1997 17.00 EDST

Normal temperatures were returning to southern WA this morning as a front swept across the state bringing cooler southerly winds. Except in the state's southeast, most overnight minimum temperatures were within 5 degrees of normal.

Yesterday's maximum temperatures were generally around the mid 40s. The highest, 46 degrees, was reported from Eneabba, Mullewa and Carnamah in the Central West, and York, Cunderdin, Hyden and Hopetoun in the Great Southern. Greatest departures from normal were in the far south of the state, and included Esperance 44 (+18), Albany 42 (+17), Mt Barker 43 (+16) and Ravensthorpe 45 (+16).

Damaging bushfires continued this morning in the Stirling Ranges National Park north of Albany, where more than 6000 hectares of the Park has been burnt out already. Another fire close to Esperance has burnt out 2500 ha, and is still burning only a few kilometres from town. Major fires yesterday in the Darling ranges east of Perth destroyed property and burnt out 10500 ha of bush and farmland. Worst affected areas were around Wundowie, Bakers Hill and Wooroloo, where 500 firefighters continued to work through last night. (ABC)

Cyclone Rachel moves slowly southwest

Saturday 4 January 1997 17.20 EDST

The eye of Cyclone Rachel passed over the remote settlement of Kalumburu this morning with strong winds cutting power and communications. Rainfall in the 24 hours up to 09.00 WST, some hours after the passage of the eye, was 121mm, and other falls in the Kimberleys were less than 60mm. At 14.00 CST, Rachel was moving SW at 15km/h and had weakened slightly to a central pressure of 982hPa with wind gusts near the centre to 130km/h. For updated warnings see the BoM's warnings for Australia page.

Rachel gives a week of heavy rain to the Top End

Saturday 4 January 1997 17.25 EDST

Rain has eased to scattered thunderstorms and showers over NT's Top End this morning after several days of heavy rain caused by Rachel as it developed from a tropical low into a tropical cyclone just to the north of Darwin. Heaviest rainfall totals for the week ended 09.00 CST this morning included Darwin Airport 555mm, Palmerston 573, Humpty Doo 577, and Shoal Bay (about 20km NE of Darwin) an unconfirmed 819mm of which 350mm reportedly fell in the 24 hours to 09.00 today. Most Darwin suburbs had weekly totals of 400mm or more. (See also updated information about Darwin rainfall in the report below.)

Cyclones galore, and record rain in Darwin.

Friday 3 January 1997 12.15 EDST updated 4 January 1998 17.00 EDST

The cyclone season continues to be active with the development of tropical cyclone Rachel just to the northwest of Darwin. The cyclone was named overnight, and at 11.00 CST was located 150km WNW of Darwin, moving SW at 20km/h, parallel to the coast.. Its central pressure was estimated as 988 hPa with wind gusts to 120km/h being experienced along the coast between Croker Island and Daly Mouth. The developing tropical low brought flood rain and damaging winds to Darwin overnight. The 24 hour rainfall total to 09.00 CSTat Darwin of 310.8mm was an all-time record, exceeding the previous record (set by Cyclone Tracy) by about 30mm. Other heavy falls included suburban Coconut Grove 353 and the Botanical Gardens 314.

Meanwhile, a tropical low near Vanuatu is becoming organised and may achieve cyclone status today. Late this morning it was moving SSW.

TC Rachel follows four cyclones in the north Australian region during the past three weeks.

TC Nicholas operated between 13 and 15 December, crossing the WA coast with sustained winds up to 45kts -- see earlier story.

TC Ophelia wandered in waters north and northwest of Western Australia from 14 to 20 December with sustained winds to 55kts.

TC Phil has only yesterday weakened below TC strength, having moved slowly westward from the near north of WA since 23 December with maximum sustained winds of 90kts on the 29th.

TC Fergus developed in the Coral Sea on Christmas Eve, then moved southeast with maximum sustained winds to 90kts on 28 December before becoming extratropical to the east of New Zealand on 31 December. During its southeastward passage on 30 December, heavy rain from the cyclone triggered a landslide on the Solomons Island of Guadalcanal which blocked the Ngalimbiu River. 1500 people were evacuated to Honiara while a National Disaster Council team removed the blockage gradually to prevent flash flooding downstream. In New Zealand, a state of emergency was declared in parts of the North Island on 31 December following flooding and wind damage, with the Coromandel Peninsula badly hit at the height of the holiday season. (ABC).

For updated cyclone information, consult Tom Metcalf's Global Hurricane, Typhoon and Tropical Cyclone Page, and the BoM's warnings for Australia page.

Heatwave continues in southern Western Australia

Friday 3 January 1997 12.45 EDST

Temperatures of 10 degrees or more above normal have been commonplace in the southern half of Western Australia since New Year. On 31 December, towns in the Central West experienced top temperatures of 42 to 44 degrees, with 44 at Morawa and Gascoyne being the highest temperature, and Geraldton's 43, 11 above average, being the highest departure. Morawa's overnight minimum of 30 on New Years morning was 10 above average.

On 1 January, the area of extreme heat extended to the southwest coast and Great Southern areas, with top temperatures typically in the low 40s, and 8 to 12 degrees above normal. Geraldton's maximum was 44.5, 13 above normal, Eneabba reported 46 (+11) while Perth Airport recorded 43.5, 12 above.

After overnight minimum temperatures from 5 to 10 degrees above normal (Perth Airport 27.1, +10, Wongan Hills 29, +11), temperatures on 2 January were generally several degrees warmer than the previous day. Cunderdin and Hyden reported top temps of 45 (+11 and +12), Perth recorded 41.8 (+10), Albany 40 (+15), Ravensthorpe 44 (+15), Pemberton 41 (+15) and Mt Barker 43 (+16).

Overnight minimum temperatures this morning in southern WA were mostly between 6 and 12 above average. Lake Grace and Ravensthorpe reported 27 (+12 and +13), while Perth Airport recorded 25.3 (+8). Hot weather is forecast again for today, with cooler conditions tomorrow. No major fires have occurred, but small fires caused evacuations yesterday near Collie, Stockton Dam and Shotts in the southwest of the state.