Dust storm wraps Melbourne causing major power outages, Australia

Dust storm wraps Melbourne causing major power outages, Australia

An intense thunderstorm accompanied with strong winds and dust passed through Melbourne on January 13, 2016. The storm covered the city in a cloud of dust which lasted about 10 to 20 minutes, reducing visibility in the area. Power outages and damaged buildings have been reported across the affected area.

Dry conditions prevailing in the region over the last couple of days now combined with damaging winds and kicked up the dust in the city, according to the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) senior forecaster Richard Carlyon. The storm hit the between 6 and 6.30 pm (local time), after which cooler weather conditions settled in.

Wind speeds reaching 100 km/h (62.1 mph) were reported near Melton and Werribee. A severe weather warning was in place for the afternoon on January 13 and was lifted in the evening hours for Melbourne, but is still in effect across parts of eastern Victoria, Morwell, Traralgon, Sale, Moe, Bairnsdale and Orbost.

"It wasn't what you call a heavy dust storm. I have seen some images from around Melbourne and certainly, there was some reduced visibility, but I think it was more of a blanket up over the north-west (of the state). It was nothing like the early 80s," said Mr Carlyon, referring to the infamous dust storm of 1983, when the entire city wrapped in a cloud of dust that reduced the visibility to 100 m (328 feet), and caused the closure of three airports in the affected area.

Mildura reported the visibility of 300 m (984.3 feet) at the town's airport. Numerous beaches between Fairhaven and Point Lonsdale on the Great Ocean Road have been closed because of lightning. The State Emergency Service received 236 calls for help during the storm, mainly due to fallen trees and damaged buildings.

Almost 1 000 homes in Melbourne and Victoria country reported power outages.

During the morning of January 13, temperatures of about 20 °C (68 °F) were measured in Melbourne. Throughout the day, the mercury rose to 42.2 °C (107.96 °F), while 43.8 °C (110.8 °F) was observed at Essendon Airport and Laverton. During the evening temperatures dropped to 33 °C (91.4 °F), and are expected to fall by another 10 °C (50 °F) during the night, according to Peter Blake, the BOM forecaster.

Due to hot and dry conditions, a total fire ban has been put in effect in all district apart from East Gippsland. An out-of-control fire traveling south towards Stewarts Road has prompted watch and act warnings for St Helier and The Gurdies.

All Victorian residents have been advised to keep informed about the changing weather conditions while emergency service is ready to respond when necessary, according to Craig Lapsley, Emergency Management Commissioner.

Featured image: Dust storm wraps Melbourne, January 13, 2016. Image credit: Ian Currie via Twitter

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