Acknowledgements: Australian Weather News gratefully acknowledges the Bureau of Meteorology as the collector and main source of meteorological data in Australia, along with the thousands of observers who record the weather and rainfall daily. I also thank Don White, Michael Bath, Jimmy Deguara, Jacob Aufdemkampe , and Michael Thompson who routinely provide me with much appreciated information.
|Saturday 28 February 1998||Flood rain continues in Gulf country; Perth swelters|
Former TC May continues to generate remarkably copious rainfall over the southeastern Gulf of Carpentaria. Burketown recorded just 80mm in the 24 hours to 9AM, and a further 45mm to 3PM. Then the heavens opened again to give 69mm in 3 hours to 6PM and a further 113mm to 9PM. The small town, which on average records 753mm for the entire year, has now received 673mm in 60 hours, or 2.5 days. The former tropical cyclone, now a rain depression sitting in the monsoon trough, was located near Borroloola in the SW corner of the Gulf this afternoon, moving slowly northwest, parallel to, but inland from, the coast. The system remains well organised, with the heaviest rain in a zone of convergence on its eastern flank.
Perth City recorded a top temperature of 41.1C on the last day of Summer today, equalling the record of six 40C+ days in a season. Elsewhere in the Perth area, the airport recorded 42C and Pearce 43, whilst top temperatures in the low 40s were the rule across most of the state. Perth has also come to the end of its third driest summer on record, with only 1.8mm of rain in the city gauge. The City's average maximum temperature this summer of 30.7, 1.1 above normal, pales into insignificance beside that of Nyang in the state's northwest, however. There, the average maximum temperature for the 90 days of summer was 43.6C, a remarkable 3.1 above average in one of the hottest areas on earth.
|Friday 27 February 1998||Torrential rain in Gulf country; fires surround Sydney|
Flood rainfall totals have been produced by the seemingly innocuous Tropical Cyclone May as it crossed the Gulf of Carpentaria coast near Burketown overnight. Burketown Post Office recorded 366mm in the 24 hours to 9 this morning, but 226mm of that fell in 6 hours to 3AM. Escott Lodge, 15km west of the town, reported 325mm in the 24 hour period. Moderate totals around 50 to 100mm were reported elsewhere in the region, and moderate falls continued through the day. Burketown's 366mm is only 3mm shy of the town's all-time record daily rainfall -- 368.8mm -- in a record which dates back to 1886, and is its heaviest ever January daily total.
Bushfires today threatened NSW communities from Batemans Bay to Newcastle's Lake Macquarie. A top temperature of 42C at Batemans Bay on the south coast yesterday helped spawn a fire in the Kialoa State Forest, 25km north of the town. Several fires were also started yesterday in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney and on the Central Coast.
Today, top temperatures in the high 30s occurring along the coast, followed by a strong, gusty southerly change, caused continuing problems for firefighters. A second fire near Kialoa at Snapper Point took hold late morning, threatening residential areas. A fire at Kurmond in the lower Blue Mountains closed Bells Line of Road, whilst two fires west of Lake Macquarie threatened towns SW of Newcastle.
Whilst the two Couth Coast and four small Blue Mountains fires were contained by mid-afternoon, strong winds ahead of and with the southerly wind change resulted in a state of emergency being declared at Lake Macquarie late afternoon. About 20 residents were evacuated from homes threatened at Teralba, whilst the F3 freeway was closed near Morriset by flames close to the road. Other large fires occurred at Dora Creek and Edgeworth, south and west of the Lake. The southerly change passed Norah Head shortly after 5PM with winds gusting to 48 knots, however, an easing of conditions and containment work by 220 firefighters overnight saw all fires contained by early on the 28th.
|Thursday 26 February 1998||Heat and freak weather in SA, Vic; TC May in Qld|
It was another day of high temperatures across SA and Victoria today, with maximum temperatures of 10 to 18C above normal being widespread. Press reports claimed the day in Victoria was the hottest since Ash Wednesday 15 years ago. Temperatures away from the coast generally peaked in the low to mid 40s, with 45C being reached at Horsham in western Victoria, and Andamooka and Port Augusta in SA's central north. The Murray Valley in both states, and in southern NSW, sweltered in temperatures between 42 and 44C. Several normally cooler coastal communities recorded enormous departures from normal -- in Victoria, Lakes Entrance's top temperature of 42 was 18 above, whilst in SA, Victor Harbour's relatively mild 38C was still up 14 on normal. Dozens of small fires broke out in Victoria, but all were contained.
A cooler change swept across the two states during the day, bringing some freak weather to Victoria. In Melbourne, a severe thunderstorm with the change blacked out thousands of homes and brought down trees, branches and powerlines. Emergency services received over 100 calls, and widespread, severe damage was caused to trees, buildings and fences at the Melbourne Zoo, causing it to close to the public (on the 27th) for the first time in its 135-year history. In the heat before the change, a power surge in Mentone in Melbourne's southeast hit about a dozen homes, starting fires in two of them.
In Geelong, hot northwesterlies raised the temperature to 41C, 15 above normal. Lindsay Smail reports that raised dust in the atmosphere, lifted from topsoil in NW Victoria during the day, resulted in a rare mud shower on the 27th. "As rain drops fall through the clouds of dust, they bring particles of the dust down to earth with them," he says. "The resultant "mud rain" or "red rain" or "mud shower" stains washing, muddies cars and generally discolours everything it lands on. They were apparently much more common in the 1920s and 1930s when the Mallee was being cleared, and still had topsoil to erode, but we still occasionally experience them, maybe once every year or two."
Tropical Cyclone May developed from a tropical low about 100km NW of Mornington Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria late this morning. A weak category 1 system, it tracked south, crossing the Qld coast this evening well clear of population centres.
|Wednesday 25 February 1998||Bushfires in NSW, Victoria and Borneo|
Hot, windy conditions produced a serious bushfire situation at Macedon, 60km NW of Melbourne, today. Over 200ha of pine plantation were burnt to within half a kilometer north of the town, which was under threat from potential wind direction changes during the afternoon. Over 300 firefighters and 50 tankers attended the blaze, and the town, which was all but wiped out in the Ash Wednesday fires, was not damaged.
In NSW, the Snowy Mountains Highway is still closed as about 80 NPWS firefighters work to contain the Talbingo fire in hot and windy weather.
Meanwhile, in nearby parts of Asia, there are signs of a repeat of last year's disastrous firest fires. These covered much of SE Asia in heavy smoke haze for weeks, leading to widespread respiratory illness, and air travel and tourism disruptions. The present forest fires are burning across a 250km front in the Mahakam River valley in central East Kalamantan on the island of Borneo. This part of the island is an Indonesian province, and straddles the equator to the north of Western Australia. An independent fire management team funded by Germany said on Monday that satellites had detected up to 500 "hot-spots" -- 1km squares of high average temperature. Visibility in the area is limited to 300m, and, although international efforts are being made to train and deploy firefighters, the German team believes the fires are too large and widespread to be contained by anything less than heavy rain. The team has accused timber companies of starting the fires to clear land at a time of serious drought in the area. A meeting of ASEAN environment ministers today called for international help, and the activation of a bilateral agreement made last year between Indonesia and Malaysia, which share the island of Borneo, to deal with the fire problems.
|Tuesday 24 February 1998||NSW bushfire continues|
The fire burning east of Talbingo (see yesterday's report) had burnt through over 2,000ha of the Kosciuszko National Park by late this afternoon. Helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft continued to douse the main blaze with water and fire retardants, while backburnt and bulldozed firebreaks now surround 90% of the fire.
|Monday 23 February 1998||Bushfires in Tas and NSW|
A large fire, together with nearby spot fires, kept firefighters busy at Round Hill near Burnie on Tasmania's northwest coast yesterday and today. A house and three buildings were lost yesterday, and bulldozers were clearing firebreaks this afternoon to protect property against a wind change.
Meanwhile, a fire which started yesterday at the old Talbingo Tip in the Kosciuszko National Park, NSW, expanded dramatically today, burning through some 1,200 hectares by nightfall. Though it was not particularly hot or windy, the countryside is extremely dry after a hot, dry summer. The Snowy Mountains Highway was closed all day. Fixed-wing aircraft were used to drop fire-retarding foam, and backburning, including from air-dropped incendiaries, is being done overnight.
|Saturday 21 February 1998||High seas in Bass Strait|
The Devil Cat, the catamaran ferry operating between Tasmania and Victoria, was prevented from operating by bad weather las night for the first time since it commenced running. It set out from Georgetown on Tasmania's north coast last night, but was forced to turn back by strong winds and high seas. Conditions moderated this morning allowing the Cat to recommence its journey.
|Thursday 19 February 1998||Major record temp in WA|
Two months of remarkably high temperatures in Western Australia's north surely peaked today when Mardie, a tiny settlement on the state's northwest coast 100km SW of Karratha, recorded a maximum temperature of 50.5C, or 122.9F. This is the second highest confirmed official temperature ever recorded under standard conditions on the continent, beaten only by the South Australian town of Oodnadatta's record of 50.7C on 2 Jan 1960. It also sets a new record high for WA, where the previous record of 49.8C, set in January 1979, was shared between Forrest and Mundrabilla on the Nullarbor Plain in the state's southeast.
Australia's "record" maximum temperatures have been reviewed recently, and some long-standing records removed from the books because of indications that the methods of thermometer exposure overestimated temperatures. These recorded included the long-standing 53.1C at Cloncurry, Qld, on 16 Jan 1889 and 50.7C at Eucla, WA, on 22 Jan 1906. See the Australian Weather News article for 7 January 1998 for further details.
|Wednesday 18 February 1998||Fires in SA and Vic; Windy in Tasmania|
Rising temperatures, very dry air and strengthening northerly winds ahead of a cold front have again encouraged bushfires in South Australia and Victoria. In South Australia, a grassfire north of Kingston in the state's southeast has burnt more than 1,700 hectares, whilst a second at Warooka on the Yorke Peninsula consumed over 150 hectares. Both were brought under control late in the day. In Victoria, a large fire near Colac, about 70km WSW of Geelong, threatened houses and burnt out over 460 hectares after breaking out in the Jancourt Flora and Fauna Reserve around midday. Unconfirmed reports said that one house had been destroyed. Another fire burnt out 10 hectares of forest in the Paddy Ranges near Maryborough, south of Bendigo.
Exposed coastal and mountain locations in Tasmania reported their second day of strong to galeforce winds today as a front approached the state during the day and crossed during the evening. The summit of Mount Wellington reported sustained winds of 46 knots with gusts to 64 knots as the change passed through around 6pm.
|Tuesday 17 February 1998||Cold night in the Alps; Windy in Vic and Tas|
Minimum temperatures were 9 to 13 degrees below the February norm across the alpine areas of NSW and Victoria overnight. After the snowy cold change reported yesterday, the wind dropped and skies cleared to give Charlotte Pass (Kosciuszko Chalet) a minimum of minus 5.5, possibly its lowest February minimum on record. It was the lowest February temperature recorded in NSW (and probably Australia) since minus 7.0 at Perisher Valley on 17 Feb 1979. Perisher Valley this morning recorded minus 4.9, Mount Hotham minus 3.7 and Thredbo Crackenback minus 4, all 11 or 12 below average. Nearby areas were also affected, with Cootamundra breaking its previous February low of 5.0 with a reading of 3.2 (13 below normal) and Benalla 5.0 (down 9 on normal).
Despite the proximity of a high pressure system over northern Victoria, strong to galeforce winds were still reported along the Victorian coast and in Tasmania today, particularly late in the afternoon. On the Victorian coast, Cape Nelson reported wind gusts to 45 knots in the early evening, while to the east, Wilsons Promintory reported sustained galeforce winds around 6pm with gusts to 53 knots. All Tasmanian coastal stations reported strong to galeforce winds, with Maatsuyker Island's new automatic weather station upholding the Island's reputation for windiness by recording 10-minute sustained winds of 45 knots with gusts to 60 knots at 7pm. Tasmania's mountain weather stations also reported strong winds with galeforce gusts, Mount Wellington sending in reports of sustained 40 to 50 knot winds with gusts to 60 knots for much of the evening.
|Monday 16 February 1998||Record WA heat; Vic and NSW storms|
Nyang Station in Western Australia's Pilbara broke the all-time Australian February temperature record today. The mercury at the station, about 150km south of Onslow, rose to 49.4C, or 120.9 on the Fahrenheit scale. This temperature beats the previous Australian February record of 49.2C set by Mardie, also in the Pilbara though on the coast, in 1977. It is also the highest temperature recorded anywhere, in any month, in Australia since 13 January 1979, when Forrest, WA, recorded 49.8C. What's more, it breaks Nyang's previous record high temperature by one degree, though that record was set less than two months ago when the maximum reached 48.4C on 31 December 1997. Temperature records at Nyang have been kept since 1972. Other high maximum temperatures today included 47 at Gascoyne Junction, and at Marble Bar 46 for the second day in a row.
Temperatures in the northwestern inland of WA have been consistently 3 to 10 degrees above average since early in December. Gascoyne Junction in the Pilbara has recorded a maximum of 40C or more on all except 5 days since 11 December, and their top temperatures for each day so far this month have been 45, 45, 44, 45, 45, 43, 44, 44, 43, 44, 46, 46, 46, 47, 47 and 46!
Maximum temperatures across most of Victoria, southeastern SA and southern NSW were from 8 to 12 degrees below normal today. The cold day and stormy weather across southeastern Australia was a result of the first major incursion of cold southern air into the continent for two months. A sharp upper trough pushed very cold air across Victoria and into NSW at upper levels, bringing heavy rain and storms to Melbourne during the early morning, snow to the Victorian and NSW Alps during the afternoon, a spate of violent storms from Sydney to the north Coast later in the day, and storms across southeast Queensland overnight..
At Strathbogie, in the ranges just southeast of Euroa, Victoria, the temperature only rose to 13.5C, some 14 degrees below the February norm, while Lindsay Smail reports from Geelong that the City's maximum of 15.8C was the lowest recorded in a February since records began in 1871. Two thunderstorms, accompanied by hail up to 1.5cm in size, gave the city an extraordinarily wintry day for February.
In the Melbourne bayside suburb of St Kilda, what was variously described as a funnel cloud, twister and mini-tornado roared in from Port Phillip during the morning and ripped part of the roof off the former St Kilda railway station. Elsewhere in the city, heavy rain flooded houses, roof tiles were torn off by wind, and roads closed by downed trees and floodwaters. Melbourne Airport recorded a peak gust of 47 knots shortly before 2pm. Ambulance crews reported four times the usual number of road accidents in slippery conditions. Melbourne City recorded 25mm between midnight and 6am, while Wonthaggi, on the coast southeast of Phillip Island, recorded 38mm in the 9 hours to 6am. Much-needed moderate rains were recorded over much of southern Victoria, particularly in the western Gippsland, much to the delight of farmers.
The eastern half of Tasmania also received some much needed rain overnight, most places in the northeast and down the East Coast recording over 25mm, and between 10 and 25mm falling in a broad swathe down the middle of the state. Bicheno top-scored with 56mm, followed by 48 at Friendly Beaches and 41 at Orford.
In the Alps, the temperature dropped rapidly during the morning bringing snow by early afternoon. Mount Hotham's temperature dropped from 4.9C at 9am to minus 0.5C at noon with light snow. At Kosciuszko Chalet, snow started falling at 2.30pm and was lying 1cm deep on the ground by 3pm. Thredbo Crackenback reported heavy snow, and Perisher Valley hail.
In NSW, storms in the unstable, humid air ahead of the change brought violent storms to Sydney, the Central Coast and the Coffs Harbour and Tamworth areas. In Sydney's northwest, a home was destroyed at Thornleigh when a tree crashed through its roof. Houses were unroofed at Canterbury, fallen power lines closed a road at Greenacre, and 15,000 homes lost electricity, mostly for 2 to 3 hours, during the storms. The SES fielded some 250 calls for major assistance overnight. In Sydney's west, Badgery's Creek automatic weather station recorded a gust of 44 knots just before 6.30pm. In Gosford, the roof was blown off a house onto neighbouring homes. Strong winds also brought down trees and powerlines and unroofed at least 4 houses south of Coffs Harbour around 3pm. The towns of Repton, Raleigh and Mylestrom suffered the most damage. At Port Macquarie, the airport anemometer reported a gust of 45 knots just before 4pm. Meanwhile very heavy rain fell in the Peel Valley above Tamworth between 2 and 3pm. The Bureau reported that up to 90mm fell in less than one hour in the vicinity of Keeva, Taroona and Goonoo Goonoo, causing flash flooding in the upper Peel River. Strong winds were also reported from Bega on the far south coast, with a peak gust of 49 knots at 4pm
Some indication of the unusually long period of warm weather in southeastern Australia is given by Sydney's maximum and minimum temperatures. Since mid-December, Sydney's Observatory Hill has recorded only 5 out of 65 minimum temperatures below the average, and only 12 maxima have fallen below the norm.
|Sunday 15 February 1998||Qld floods|
Floodwaters continue to move down southern inland streams in Queensland, and down the Dawson towards Rockhampton. On the Bulloo, the main peak, to minor flood level, is approaching Autumnvale, just north of Thargomindah. However, renewed rises are being experienced upstream at Quilpie and South Comongin from more recent rain. The Paroo peaked at Eulo at 2.6 meters last Thursday, fell, then rose to a second peak last Saturday. A peak of 2.04m was reached at Caiwarro at noon, Saturday, and the main floodwaters are now between Caiwarro and Hungerford on the NSW border, causing minor flooding. Moderate flooding is occurring on the Maranoa and Balonne Rivers, with peaks near Warkon and St George respectively. On the Dawson, the main floodwaters are now downstream of the Isla-Delusion Crossing which peaked at 7.15m yesterday evening. Minor to moderate flooding is expected downstream.
|Saturday 14 February 1998||Gales in Tasmania|
Southern Tasmania experienced strong to galeforce winds late yesterday and this morning as a deep low moved past well to the south, dragging a slow-moving front across the state. Strong winds were reported at most locations overnight, with the usual windy places getting storm-force winds. The summit of Mount Wellington reported a peak gusts of 68 knots at 3.30 and 4.00am, with a ten-minute average winds up to 52 knots. Maatsuyker Island, off Tasmania's south coast, reported average winds around 45 knots all night, with a peak gust of 61 knots at 0.10am.
|Friday 13 February 1998||Heavy showers in Qld, NT; TC Victor off WA; Southern WA heat|
A trough lying inland from the coast in Queensland produced a few heavy thunderstorm falls during the early morning. The mining town of Collinsville, 70km SW of Bowen, recorded 82mm between 9pm and 3am this morning. In the Curtis region in SE Qld, Gladstone Airport received 66mm between 6 and 8am, and Gayndah further inland caught 36mm from a thunderstorm around 3am.
Along the Territory coast, a weak monsoon trough to the north is tending to suppress activity, with the monsoon now in a quiet phase. However diurnal heating is producing occasional heavy falls. Jabiru, in northern Arnhemland, recorded 73mm in one hour to 6pm, whilst Borroloola in the lower Roper River valley received 35.4mm in half an hour to 7.15pm.
Tropical Cyclone Victor, which was located well northwest of WA this evening, has deepened to an estimated 965hPa. It continues to move steadily WSW.
Temperatures commonly 8 to 12 degrees above normal were experienced in the Central West, Great Southern and Goldfields districts of WA today. Morawa, about 300km north of Perth, topscored with 47 degrees. Most other centres in the area were in the low to mid 40s.
|Thursday 12 February 1998||Lord Howe Island deluge; Rain across E Aust; windy in the south|
Lord Howe Island received its heaviest February rain on record from a phenomenal thunderstorm overnight. The island's airport met office recorded 375mm for the 24 hours to 9am Friday 13 February. Some 350mm fell in the 11 hours between 3pm and 2am, with over half falling between 6 and 9pm. The storm developed on the rear edge of the same cloud mass that produced widespread rain over southeastern Australia at the weekend. Satellite photos show explosive development of a thunderstorm complex over the central Tasman Sea during the late afternoon and early evening, coinciding with the heaviest of the rain. The island's heaviest rainfall on record was 449mm in the 24 hours to 9am on 18 June 1996.
The rainfall breakup, from available synoptic reports, is:
|Thursday||9am to noon||0.2|
|noon to 2pm||3|
|2pm to 3pm||4|
|3pm to 5pm||49|
|5pm to 6pm||41|
|6pm to 8pm||116|
|8pm to 9pm||65|
|9pm to 2am||80|
|Friday||2am to 6am||0|
|6am to 8am||5|
|8am to 9am||12|
A slow moving surface low pressure trough coupled with an upper trough advancing from the west brought more showery rainfall to this sodden area today. A torrential early morning fall at Texas, on the southern Darling Downs, gave the town a 24 hour total of 102.6mm to 9am, causing local flooding. Riverton North, about 35km southeast of Texas, received 95.0mm, while Bonshaw, just over the border in NSW reported 81.4mm. In the Queensland Central Highlands, Orion Downs, about 30km ESE of Springsure received 93.0mm, and there were many other falls of 30 to 50mm in the district and south onto the Downs. In the Hastings catchment west of Port Macquarie, Yarras Mountain experienced a lengthy thunderstorm during the day, giving it 52mm between 9am and 3pm. A storm gave Coffs Harbour 16mm between 5 and 6pm.
Widespread falls of more than 3 inches over the past 5 days have generally been good news for farmers and graziers in South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania, New South Wales and southern Queensland. In South Australia, the falls come on top of generally above average rainfall in January. It is good news for the pastoral industry, but has created a major problem with kangaroos coming onto pastoral properties in search of food. In Tasmania, there have been good falls of 25 to 60mm, including on the drought-stricken north coast, but they have not been enough to lift water restrictions which remain in force on 15 rivers. In Victoria and New South Wales, the rains have been generally welcomed, but are hampering fruit picking in orchards and vineyards in the south. In Queensland, general falls of 5 to 9 inches in the southern and central inland have boosted grazing country and cotton crops, but has interrupted the sorghum harvest in the south.
The Bureau's rain map for the week ending this morning shows the general picture. Among the heaviest falls are:
Brisk northwesterlies ahead and southwesterlies behind a front which passed across the two states this afternoon kept the anemometers turning. On the Victorian coast, Wilsons Promintory reported strong winds for most of the day, with frequent gusts to 40 to 50 knots, and strong winds were reported as far inland as Horsham. In Tasmania, coastal and mountain stations reported sustained strong to gale force winds, with gusts at the summit of Mount Wellington, behind Hobart, to 50 knots around 5pm.
|Wednesday 11 February 1998||NT Floods; NSW mid-north coast rain; Qld floods; cyclones|
Nearly three weeks after floods described as more than a once in one hundred year event, .around 1000 houses that were flooded in Katherine still cannot be occupied. In addition, about 1500 people have been left without employment after 400 businesses were badly affected by the flooding. The state of disaster declared in the town officially ended last Sunday.
The Katherine River flows into the Daly, and downstream, near its mouth, the community of Daly River (Nauiyu Nambiyu) is cleaning up after the flood peak with the help of fifty army troops from Darwin. Their first task is to get electricity working so that bore water and sewerage pumps can be got going. They will then proceed to evaluate and repair buildings damaged by the unprecedented flooding.
Torrential rain fell overnight in the Kempsey area of the mid-north coast of NSW. Kempsey and nearby Smoky Cape both recorded 141mm for the 24 hours to 9am, whilst Macksville to the north reported 147.8mm. Further south, Port Macquarie reported 73mm and Yarras Mountain, in the headwaters of the Hastings River, reported 72. Most of the rain fell between noon yesterday and 6am this morning, however on the nearby tablelands, Glen Innes Airport recorded 29mm and the town 21mm between 9am and 3pm today. There were some heavy falls further inland, too, with Narrabri West receiving 81mm and Barraba 56mm in the 24 hours to 9am.
Following falls of up to 200mm over the past few days, a number of rivers in Queensland's central and southern inland are in minor to moderate flood. The Bulloo River peaked at South Comongin at 3.4 meters during the day and at Quilpie last night with minor to moderate flooding expected downstream to Thargomindah during the next week. The Paroo is in minor flood in the Eulo area. Amby Creek, which flows into the Maranoa River is in moderate flood, helped by a further fall of 84mm at Amby in the 24 hours to 9am. It reached a peak of 6.90m at Amby at 6.30 this morning with moderate flooding. At Springfield, where Amby Creek joins the Maranoa, a peak of 8.65m was recorded at 7pm. Significant rises are reported on the Balonne, which joins the Maranoa in Beardmore Reservoir, about 130km south of Roma, and should lead to minor flooding. Minor flooding is also occuring in headwaters of the Dawson River, which flows to sea as the Fitzroy at Rockhampton. A peak of 5.22m passed through Taroom early on Thursday morning.
Tropical Cyclone Victor was located 600km north of Karratha on the WA Pilbarra coast this evening. With a central pressure of 990hPa and westward movement at 10 knots, it is not considered a foreseeable threat. In the southwest Pacific, a tropical depression near the Cook Islands of Pukapuka and Nassau is expected to develop into a cyclone within 48 hours.
|Tuesday 10 February 1998||Storms in WA north; more rain in NSW and Qld|
In the north of WA, heavy storms continue to be experienced in the Kimberley, still sodden after Cyclone Les. Derby Airport received 87mm between 3 and 6pm, while Cygnet Bay, north of Broome, had an early morning storm that yielded 45mm between 3 and 6am.
The wet event of the past four days continued today in much the same area as yesterday, but with registrations generally lower. Falls were heaviest late in the day as daytime heating stirred the cloudmass into one last burst before it drifted out into the Tasman. Archerfield Airport in Brisbane recorded 33mm between 6 and 9pm. On the NSW mid-north coast, Smoky Cape recorded 89mm in 9 hours of steady rain between noon and 9pm, and Utungan, on Taylors Arm of the Nambucca River, recorded 141mm between noon and midnight at the same time as Bowraville recorded 116mm, 86 of which fell in the five hours to 5pm. There were some good falls inland during the day, too, with Nyngan reporting 41mm between 9am and 9pm.
|Monday 09 February 1998||Storms, heavy rain in NSW and Qld; Hot in WA|
The system that has brought widespread rain to southern states over the weekend moved into southern Queensland overnight, bringing some exceptionally heavy thunderstorm falls. In the 24 hours to 9am, Miles in the western Darling Downs recorded 119.2mm. In the Maranoa, Amby Creek recorded 116.0mm, Garrabarra 107.6, Surat 93.0 and Mitchell 107.0.
Late in the day, there were some remarkably heavy falls for inland Queensland -- 83mm between 3 and 9pm at Longreach and 91mm between 2 and 5pm at Oakey, northwest of Toowoomba. Oakey had already recorded 80mm to 9am, bringing its total to 5pm to 171mm! Totals for the 24 hours to 9am Tuesday (most of which fell on the Monday) included Wandoan, about 60km NW of Miles, 114.4mm and Mount Mowbullan, 40km NE of Dalby in the Bunya National Park, 98.8.
Falls in northern NSW were only a little more restrained. Moree managed 55mm between noon and 3pm, while Tenterfield reported 27 and Casino and Smoky Cape both 39mm between 6 and 9am. Nimbin recorded 78mm in 6 hours to 4.15am (a return period of around 1.3 years), while Rock Valley, also in the Richmond River Valley, recorded 90mm in the 6 hours to 3.30am (return period about 3 years).In the same downpour, Tuncester, near Lismore, recorded 91mm.
Century-plus temperatures spread to the south coast of WA today, with Albany Airport recording a top temperature of 38, 13 above normal. The maximum at Perth Airport reached 42, 10 above, and many centres in the south and central west divisions reported maxima of 42 to 44 degrees.
|Sunday 08 February 1998||Strong winds in Tas and Vic, Good rain in NSW|
The trough system that moved through Victoria and southwestern NSW yesterday continued into the northeast of NSW today, spreading useful rain to much of the southeast of the Continent. Meanwhile, a boisterous southwesterly stream produced strong to galeforce winds across parts of Tasmania and Victoria and the NSW Snowy Mountains.
The cloud band with the trough moving through northeastern NSW produced thunderstorms and some heavy falls in central and central eastern parts of the state. Some of the heavier short-duration falls were 23mm between 9pm yesterday and midnight at Forbes AP, 47mm in 6 hours to 3am at Bathurst AP, 35mm in 3 hours to 6am at Nullo Mountain in the Upper Hunter, 43mm in the 6 hours to 6pm at Newcastle, and 37mm in 3 hours to 6pm at Cessnock. With the cloudband lying back across northern NSW and southern Queensland into the northeast of South Australia and southeast NT, good falls were reported across that region, with Moomba in SA scoring 40mm in the 6 hours to 3am, and Jervois, 250km ENE of Alice Springs, receiving 70.6mm for the 24 hours to 9am. In Tasmania, falls of 25 to 75mm were widespread, including in the parched north of the state, whilst in Victoria there were general 24-hour totals of 10 to 40mm.
Strong winds continued to buffet exposed parts of Tasmania and Victoria, and also the Snowy Mountains where Thredbo Crackenback reported winds averaging gale force during the morning, with a peak gust of 61 knots at 3.32am. Sheoaks, west of Geelong, which experienced some notable wind yesterday, again reported gales overnight, with a top gust of 64kts at 3.26am. Virtually all automatic weather stations in Tasmania and from the Great Divide south in Victoria/NSW reported mean winds of 25 knots with gusts to 35 or 45 knots during the day.
|Saturday 07 February 1998||Damaging wind in NSW and Vic|
An active trough of low pressure crossed southeastern Australia today bringing galeforce winds and heavy rain to much of Victoria and Southern NSW. A nine-month-old boy was killed by a tree branch brought down by strong winds at Darlington Point in southwestern NSW. In Wagga and other parts of the Riverina, there was widespread wind damage with trees uprooted and homes badly damaged. State emergency services worked through the night and most of Sunday to make repairs. On the slopes of Mount Kosciuszko, storm-force winds brought many trees down on the Alpine Way, blocking it between Dead Horse Gap near Thredbo and the Murray One Power Station near Khancoban. Crews estimated it would take two days to make the road trafficable.
The trough which brought the storms was strengthened by substantially cooler air behind it than most changes so far this summer -- maximum temperatures across most of South Australia behind the change were between 6 and 11 degrees below normal. Ahead of the front, temperatures were up to 13 above -- compare top temps of 39 at Bairnsdale in the east with 16 at Heywood and 21 at Renmark in the west. A strong northwesterly jetstream developed above the change, reaching 160 knots over southern South Australia during the morning. This, and strong upmotion in the air, developed a small low in the trough as it moved through the Riverina. Meanwhile, copious moisture was available in the form of a cloud band that has drifted slowly across from northern WA, part of the remains of TC Les.
The band of storms and rain passed over southeastern SA during the morning and early afternoon, bringing many places falls of 10 to 30mm. There were some good falls in parts of South Australia's outback -- Kokatha, 140km west of Woomera reported 55.2 for the 24 hours to 9am today. Falls of 10 to 30mm were widespread through Victoria during the afternoon and evening, though fell more as rain behind the change than from thunderstorms with the change in the east of the state. Northern and western Tasmania, and far southern NSW also received similar falls.
Gusty winds with the trough and change were most damaging in NSW/Vic border regions, with top gusts from automatic weather stations of
Sheoaks, west of Geelong, reported storm-force winds between 11.00am and 3.30pm. The wind averaged between 25 to 41 knots most of this time, with frequent gusts above 40 and peak gusts of 54 knots around 12.30pm, 60 at 2.18, 55 around 2.30 and 53 around 3pm.
|Friday 06 February 1998||Storms and bushfires continue|
A weak low in the monsoon trough, which lies across the NT Top End today, moved west across the Darwin region overnight giving some heavy falls. Wagait Beach, near the centre of Darwin, recorded 249.2mm in the 24 hours to 9AM today, though the airport to the east of the City reported only 74mm, of which 50mm fell in the 3 hours between 9PM on the 5th and midnight. Cox Peninsula, across the bay to the west of the City, recorded 210.2mm and Shoal Bay, up the coast to the NE of Darwin received 172.5.
A fire in the Kosciuszko National Park near Jindabyne has burnt out about 600 hectares since it started yesterday afternoon. Meanwhile, arson is suspected in another four fires which burnt near the Saddle Hill Reserve, Belair, Randell Park and Eagle on the Hill, all in the Hills east of Adelaide last night and this morning. The fires were small and quickly controlled.
Further widely spread storms brought isolated heavy falls of rain to eastern NSW late in the day. Penrith, west of Sydney, reported 42mm and Richmond RAAF Base 25mm in an early evening storm, whilst Wittitrin in the Macleay Valley on the Mid North Coast received 29mm in an hour to 1.30PM and Mt View in the Shoalhaven had 22mm in the hour to 2PM.
|Thursday 05 February 1998||Victorian fire|
A large grass fire at Avenel north of Melbourne burnt out about 100 hectares and threatened houses during the day. The Country Fire Authority believes the fire was started when a magpie flew into power lines on the Seymour to Mangalore Road and burst into flames. This follows a similar situation with the fires near Kingston, Tas, on 17 January, except they were caused by a duck!
|Wednesday 04 February 1998||Major storms in NSW and WA, fires in SA and Tas|
Forrest airfield on the Transcontinental Railway, just west of the WA/SA border on the Nullarbor Plain, broke a 60-year record for most rain on a February day today, and nearly half of the rain fell in 10 minutes. 52mm were recorded in the 24 hours to 9AM on the 5th, but 50mm fell in a downpour during the afternoon, with 23.0mm falling in the 10 minutes to 15.28PM. The previous wettest February day since records began in 1930 received 48.8mm. Forrest's average rainfall for the whole of summer is 47.9mm. The rain came with a thunderstorm generated by an otherwise unexceptional passing low pressure trough.
A band of thunderstorms, which developed mid afternoon in a line from the southern Central Tablelands to the North West Plains of NSW, grew into a major electrical storm complex in the Sydney region during the evening. The storm complex moved only very slowly east, giving dramatic lightning and thunder displays for one to two hours at many locations in the Sydney basin. At Blackheath, in the Blue Mountains, for example, thunder was continuous and frequently very close for one and a quarter hours between 7 and 8.15PM. 40,000 homes, mostly in Sydney's west, the upper Blue Mountains and Lithgow, were blacked out when power transmission lines and sub-stations were put out of action by lightning strikes. 500 homes were without power until lunchtime Thursday. The heaviest reported rain was at Strathfield, where 53.0mm fell in the storm, 42.0mm in the hour to 7.48PM. Other heavy hourly falls were: Auburn 42.0 to 7.39PM, Guildford 38mm to 7.36PM and Merrylands 28.0mm to 7.37PM.
Earlier in the afternoon, the developing storms brought strong wind gusts and heavy rain to the Central West and the Northern Tablelands. Dubbo Airport reported wind gusts to 57 knots soon after 3PM, Orange Airport had sustained winds of 35 knots with gusts to 45 knots an hour later, and Coonamble and Armidale also reported high winds. Heavy storm rainfalls included 58mm at Roscommon in the Kanimbla Valley, 38mm at Armidale City and 37 at Murrurundi in the upper Hunter, and Lithgow.
Fires, believed to have been deliberately lit shortly after midnight, kept 160 firefighters busy in the hills to the northeast of Adelaide this morning. Two fires at the Blackhill Conservation Park burnt through about 90 hectares of scrub and grass, whilst three grass fires were burning at Anstey's Hill near Athelstone. The fires caused a pall of smoke to drift across the city. They were brought under control by mid-morning.
In Tasmania, mopping-up operations continue in the Verona Sands-Gordon fire area. The fire on the Gordon side is contained, but that on the Scarrs Road side is not. Roads in the Verona Sands area, many of which have been closed by the fires since Monday, were reopened today.
|Tuesday 03 February 1998||Heat in the centre and east|
Temperatures above 40C again covered much of northwest NSW, southwest Qld, southern NT and northern SA today, with many centres reporting top temperatures of 43 to 45 degrees. These temperatures are 6 to 10 degrees above the February. average. Wanaaring in northwestern NSW was still 42.1C at 6PM.
In the Centre, Alice Springs is experiencing record heat. Yesterday's maximum of 45C was the highest February maximum in 56 years of records, the previous highest being 43.9 in 1996. Today's top temperature was 44C.
|Monday 02 February 1998||Major Tas fires. Unusual rains in WA|
A fire near Verona Sands and Gordon, south of Hobart, destroyed three houses and burnt out over 2000 hectares during the afternoon. At one point, 200 houses were threatened. Hobart and Geeveston reported top temperatures of 34C, 12 above average. Winds were gusty northerly during the day, with Friendly Beaches on the east coast reported gusts to 49 knots around 2PM. Whilst the fires were contained late in the day, they were still burning late on Tuesday.
In Victoria, lightning strikes overnight were held responsible for most of 94 reported bushfires during the day. One, near Berringa south of Ballarat, destroyed sheds and farm buildings, killed livestock and burnt out 100ha. Another, at Huntly near Bendigo, burnt out 130ha of grass and forest land. Twelve fires were burning along the Great Ocean Road, and others in the Otways. The biggest burnt out about 100 hectares near Anglesea. In eastern Victoria, Bairnsdale, Orbost and Lakes Entrance had a maximum temperature of 40C, 14 to 16 above average.
From Geelong, Vic, Lindsay Smail reports that two people walking at Jan Juc Beach, 15km south of Geelong, were struck by lightning, receiving severe burning. Swimmers in the water were jolted. Other strikes caused several grassfires nearby. He says "Lightning came with thunderstorms associated with a passing cold front and low pressure trough, but there was minimal rain."
The small mining town of Telfer in the Great Sandy Desert, 400km inland from Port Hedland, was awash today, with 133mm falling in the 36 hours to 9PM this evening. Telfer's median rainfall for the whole of February is 37.6mm. The rain was produced by the remains of tropical cyclone Les, now a slow-moving rain depression south of Broome.
|Sunday 01 February 1998||Heavy rains in NSW, Qld, WA. Heat in NT, Qld, SA, Vic|
Top temperatures between 40 and 45C were commonplace through SA, western Vic, southern NT and southwestern and central Qld today. They were generally 6 to 9 degrees above average, but in SA, fresh northwesterly winds ahead of a lazy trough brought century-plus conditions to the coast and the southeast, raising temperatures to 12 to 15 degrees above the February average. Victor Harbour and Mount Gambier both recorded maxima of 39 degrees, 15 and 14 above normal respectively. Hottest places were Mt Dare Station in SA, and Urandangie in Qld, both on 45C. By mid afternoon, fresh to strong and very dry winds were blowing over southeastern SA, and the area was fortunate to report no significant bushfires. Roseworthy Institute, in the Adelaide suburbs, reported a 3PM temperature of 39.6C, relative humidity of 6% and a northwesterly wind of 28 knots, after a top temperature of 42.
Tropical Cyclone Les was downgraded to a rain depression around midday. Winds had moderated through the night and morning, though heavy rain continued to fall around the Kimberley coast. Les developed into a cyclone on 24 January in the Gulf of Carpentaria, and moved west to give record flooding to Katherine. It moved from the Bonaparte Gulf of NT over land on 29 January, and has been unusual in that it has retained cyclone strength while over land, close to the coast, for most of the past four days. The slow movement has produced considerable rain, with registrations for the week to 9AM this morning of 200 to 450mm for much of the north and west Kimberley. Highest totals were Kuri Bay 451mm, Mount Hart 390, Coastal Camp 299 and Theda 266. Wyndham recorded 189mm for the week, Kalumburu 241, Broome 148 and Derby 122.
Meanwhile, two new cyclones are active in the Pacific. TC Wes is in the Cook Islands moving SE with winds to 70kts, and TC Veli is WNW of French Polynesia, also moving SE with top winds of 60knots. Ex-tropical cyclone Katrina is still an entity located just east of the tip of Cape York Peninsula and bringing squally conditions to the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Heavy thunderstorms, some with hail, again occurred through the central east and northeast of NSW and southeastern Qld. Heaviest falls occurred overnight, with Cape Moreton lighthouse receiving 36mm between midnight and 3AM this morning, and Gold Coast Seaway getting 33mm and Coffs Harbour Airport 23mm in the 3 hours before. A remarkably compact storm in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney brought 13mm of rain in 10 minutes and golfball sized hail to Blackheath around 4.30PM, though stations close to the north and south received little or nothing.