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HOT WEATHER AHEAD January 7, 2013

Posted by wmmbb in Environment.
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The temperatures are set to soar tomorrow. As ever there are dangers to be expected.

Bush fires might be expected, but hopefully not around here, but I had not considered the danger of grass fires. Stephanie Gardiner in The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

THE heatwave Sydney has managed to avoid is due to hit on Tuesday, as firefighters prepare for the most dangerous bushfire conditions in years in the city and around the state.
The Bureau of Meteorology is predicting the maximum temperature in inner Sydney and the western suburbs will be 43.
Sydney escaped extreme temperatures for much of the past week because of easterly winds bringing cool air from the ocean, the bureau’s duty forecaster, Sarah Hicks, said.
”Those winds will move to the west, so that usually brings hotter inland temperatures through to the coast,” she said.

Some of the hottest areas in the state at the weekend were in the far west and the southern half of the state, including Hay, which set a record at 48 on Saturday, Ivanhoe, which hit 45, and Wilcannia, which hit 47.6 on Sunday.
A NSW Rural Fire Service spokesman, Ben Shepherd, said the hot and windy weather meant fire ratings in Sydney, the Illawarra, the Shoalhaven, central ranges and parts of the Riverina could be extreme on Tuesday.
Mr Shepherd said those were the highest fire danger ratings the regions had had in years, while almost half the state could have severe fire danger ratings and total fire bans.
”The last few years of wet weather have led to unprecedented growth in some areas in the western parts of the state. That grass has now dried out,” Mr Shepherd said. ”It’s now become very susceptible to fire. It’s in areas now that haven’t seen fire activity for decades.
”Some people don’t believe they’re as dangerous as bushfires but grass fires typically move around about three times as fast as a bushfire. They can cut roads and impact on properties with little or no warning.”

Some of the advice is good. For example we are told:

”Clear the gutters, trim back trees, have a hose that reaches the whole way around your home but, most importantly, have a bushfire survival plan.”

Clearing the gutters is not the risk averse activity that I could be engaged in, despite the soundness of the advice.

It is hard to keep track of the weather, so it is just as well somebody does. Michelle Webster in The Illawara Mercury quotes:

Bureau of Meteorology climatologist Acacia Pepler said the first few months of the year were likely to have less dramatic weather events than the past two years.

“The last couple of years have had some quite wet starts to the year thanks to the La Nina event, but now that we’re not in a La Nina or El Nino event we’re not having that strong driver towards wet conditions,” she said.

The week between February 27 and March 4, 2012, was the equal wettest on record in NSW, Ms Pepler said. Last February, 312mm of rainfall was recorded at Bellambi, more than double the month’s 150mm annual average.

In March, 244mm of rain far exceeded the 96mm average and Shellharbour and Wollongong were both declared natural disaster areas when parts of the region were affected by flooding.

Ms Pepler described the past six years as an unusual spell, switching between La Nina and El Nino conditions.

“But that’s not what normally happens, you can actually have quite long spells where you don’t see either.”

The aged and infirm are not the only group vulnerable to hot weather. Peter Hannam reports:

Australia’s most vulnerable people are at increased risk of injury and death because community organisations are struggling to cope with day-to-day operations let alone plan for extreme weather events, the country’s peak social services group has warned.

The Australian Council of Social Service says many community organisations are likely to permanently collapse and be unable to provide services after extreme weather, leaving society’s most disadvantaged, including the elderly, mentally ill and the homeless, ”at real and increased risk of death”.

The findings, from ACOSS’s Climate Change and the Community Sector – Risks and Adaptations project, highlight the susceptibility of Australia’s most vulnerable to extreme weather conditions, some of which are being experienced in the current heatwave.

ACOSS chief executive Cassandra Goldie said the findings were ”extremely important and deeply concerning”.

While the international focus on the effects of climate change is often on the threat to poorer nations of more intense storms and harsher droughts, ”inequities in developed countries” are usually overlooked, Ms Goldie said.

”We’ve got one in eight adults and one in six children living below the poverty line. It’s well understood that for those people, they are at extreme risk of being entrenched in their poverty situation once these sorts of events occur because any of the resources they have get wiped out.”

The community groups typically rely heavily on volunteers and provide a range of vital services, including support for young mothers, childcare, welfare and aged care.

Now I know that the hot weather will be soon upon us, what should I be doing?

The Rural Fire Service Bush Fire Survival Plan

Let’s fervently hope that we don’t experience either a bush fire or a grass fire.

Postscript: 08 January 2013

I have never had the experience before. At midnight I received a phone call advising “catastrophic ¬†fire danger” for 8 January. I was referred to NSW Rural Fire Services Website.

State-wide TOTAL FIRE BAN declared for Tuesday 8 January 2013

Catastrophic Fire Danger Tuesday 8 January 2013 for Illawarra, Shoalhaven and Southern Ranges.

Messages to both SMS and land lands have been sent to the above areas.

This is NOT an evacuation order it is safety advice from the NSW RFS.

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