12 February 2019

Dust storm across Canberra sparks ACT Health warning

| Lachlan Roberts
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The dust storm pictured from Deakin. Photo: Lachlan Roberts.

As a dust storm blows across the nation’s capital, ACT Health is warning Canberrans to be wary of air quality which may lead to health complications.

As forecasted yesterday, the ACT is experiencing dry conditions and strong winds and the levels of dust particles are rising across the city, reducing the air quality.

ACT Health said anyone can experience symptoms, which may include burning eyes, throat and skin irritation. Authorities warned those with pre-existing breathing-related problems, such as asthma and chronic lung diseases, to stay indoors.

The Bureau of Meteorology said dust levels are still building in the city and may continue to for several hours. With westerly winds expected to reach between 35 to 55 km/h decreasing to 25 to 30 km/h in the late evening, the winds will continue to push in from south of New South Wales.

ACT Health will continue to monitor the air quality in the ACT.

Precautions you can take to minimise health impacts of a dust storm include:

  • leaving the area for a cleaner environment;
  • staying indoors, with windows and doors closed;
  • staying in air-conditioned premises and switching the air-conditioner to ‘recycle’ or ‘recirculate’ to reduce the amount of dust entering the building;
  • visiting a local air-conditioned building such as a library, community centre or shopping centre;
  • avoiding vigorous exercise, especially if you have a heart or lung condition;
  • if you have a heart or lung condition, follow your treatment plan prescribed by your doctor; and
  • if it is safe to do so, check on elderly neighbours or other people who you think might need extra help.

Anyone with concerns about their health should seek medical advice from their health practitioner, and anyone experiencing wheezing, chest tightness or difficulty breathing should seek urgent medical assistance. In the event of a medical emergency, call 000.

This tree was blown over onto a car on Clermont Street, Fisher this afternoon. Photo: Karen Widdowson

The ACT Emergency Services Agency said the haze currently visible across the ACT is not related to any bushfires in the area. Emergency services are currently responding to multiple calls relating to fallen power lines and trees due to the high gusts of winds this afternoon.

Clunies Ross Street in Acton closed in both directions due to fallen power lines while traffic lights are out on Barry Drive, Marcus Clarke Street, Clunies Ross Street and Dixon Road.

Emergency services are on scene and motorists have been advised to avoid the area if possible.

There are also currently unplanned electricity outages in Acton, Ainslie, City, Fraser, Fyshwick, Griffith, Hawker, Higgins, Kingston, Latham, Melba, Narrabundah, Page, Red Hill, Scullin, Spence, Turner, and Weetangera, with expected restoration time at 9pm.

If you need assistance for fallen trees, call ACT State Emergency Service on 132 500.

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