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Scorching heat, dry lightning, and strong winds hit South Australia

satellite image of south australia 0820 utc on december 9 2023

Scorching heat, dry lightning, and strong winds hit South Australia on Friday, December 8, 2023, causing multiple fires and extensive power outages affecting over 24 000 homes.

The temperature soared above 40 °C (104 °F) in some parts of the state, sparking a series of fires across the region. Emergency services were stretched, attending numerous fires, while more than 24 000 homes experienced power outages.

Fires were particularly persistent on the outskirts of Melrose, posing ongoing challenges for firefighters and emergency personnel.

The extreme weather has not been confined to South Australia alone. Australia’s southeast, including New South Wales, sweltered through a heatwave on Saturday, December 9. Authorities in New South Wales implemented fire bans across large parts of the state, including Sydney, due to the “very hot, dry and windy conditions” brought by warm northwesterly winds.

In Sydney, the temperature at Observatory Hill reached 38.9 °C (102 °F) at 13:00 local time, almost 15 °C (27 °F) above the average high for December.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, addressing the situation in Sydney, emphasized the importance of community support and safety during such extreme weather conditions.

New South Wales on Saturday faced 71 grass and bushfires, with 21 of them uncontained. This situation has raised concerns among authorities about a return to dangerous fire conditions similar to those experienced during the 2019-2020 “Black Summer.” This catastrophic event had a devastating impact, destroying an area the size of Turkey and claiming 33 lives.

Forecasts had indicated that ‘severe heatwave conditions’ would persist in much of New South Wales, with peak temperatures expected over the past weekend.

References:

1 Catastrophic fire conditions in South Australia – Sky News Australia – December 9, 2023

2 Australia swelters through heat wave as bushfire risk grows – Reuters – December 10, 2023

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