1 January 2020

Hazardous bushfire smoke envelops Canberra, baseball called off

| Ian Bushnell
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A murky view of Woden this morning. Photos: Region Media.

The ACT woke to a New Year and the worst air quality in the world, with the national capital shrouded in a pall of thick smoke blown in overnight from the bushfires in NSW.

There was hardly any visibility across the national capital and the air quality was rated Hazardous Extreme, the highest there is, at Canberra’s three measuring stations in Monash, Florey and Civic.

According to the World Air Quality Index rankings, at 9.30 am Canberra rated the worst at 434, followed by Dehli (411) and Kolkata (331).

Air quality rankings

Air quality rankings this morning. Image: World Air Quality Index.

Over 200 is considered hazardous on the Air Quality Index used by ACT Health. At noon, the index was at 4394 in Monash, 3282 in Florey and 3247 in Civic.

The smoky conditions are the worst the ACT has seen, and with major bushfires still burning in NSW, the situation is unlikely to improve soon.

The Emergency Services Agency also advises that a Total Fire Ban for the whole of the ACT will remain in effect for the rest of the day.

Parks and Conservation will maintain the closure of areas including west of the Murrumbidgee River, Kowen Forest, the Mulligans Flat Sanctuary and Googong Foreshores until midnight on Saturday.

While easterly winds brought cooler conditions this morning the temperature is expected to reach 35 degrees and the forecast Fire Danger Rating (FDR) for today is Very High.

There is no relief from the heat until Monday when 23 C is forecast, but not before temperatures peak at 42 C on Saturday.

Aspen Island and the Carillon

Aspen Island and the Carillon.

Although there are no fires burning in the ACT, the smoke from across the border will continue to impact the Territory, thinning during the day but returning to thicker conditions in the evening with the easterly.

Tuggeranong Parkway

No view of Telstra Tower from the Tuggeranong Parkway.

ACT Health upgraded its warning and advises that everyone should avoid all physical activity outdoors.

This has been heeded by the Canberra Cavalry which has called off its Canberra and Adelaide’s round seven Australian Baseball League series against Adelaide.

The four-game series was slated to start on Thursday.

“The entire Canberra and Southern NSW region has been shocked by the bushfires. This is a difficult decision to make but at the end of the day, the safety of our players, staff, and fans is the most important thing,” says Cavalry Director Dan Amodio.

Baseball Australia chief executive Cam Vale also said the welfare of players, and officials had to be put first.

“We’re facing an unprecedented situation with the serious bushfires sweeping the country and with the information we have available do not see the conditions being suitable for baseball this weekend,” Mr Vale said.

The Cavalry will provide more detail on tickets and other implications on Wednesday morning, and the ABL will outline the impact of the cancelled series on the playoffs and roster points as well.

ACT Health says sensitive groups such as people over 65, children 14 years and younger, pregnant women and those with existing heart or lung conditions should stay with a friend or relative living outside the affected area.

If this is not possible, ACT Health says residents should remain indoors and keep activity levels as low as possible.

Anyone with a heart or lung condition should take their medication as prescribed by their doctor. People with asthma should follow their asthma action plan. Anyone with concerns about their health should seek medical advice from their doctor. Anyone experiencing wheezing, chest tightness or difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.

Dairy Farmers Hill

Canberra is lost to the smog from Dairy Farmers Hill.

Police urged motorists to drive to the conditions and turn their headlights on.

While easterlies are bring smoke to the inland, smoke has also gone across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand where towns such as Dunedin and Oamaru have been affected.

The War Memorial this morning.

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How on earth is Summernats not affected this year? The worst air in the world leading to closure of NYE festivities, sports events, public places and even mail delivery – and
yet Summennats continues with burnouts happily adding to the dire air quality. How do they do it?

Capital Retro1:58 pm 02 Jan 20

And where is our Chief Minister? He should be here in our time of crisis providing leadership.

Anyone seen or heard from our Chief Minister? Any words of advice or support? Where is he when Canberra is suffering from such terrible air quality conditions? On holiday somewhere?
Canberra shops have run out of P2 respiratory masks. The ACT Govt should be locating a supply of these masks and distributing them to residents.

What’s the problem? Why raise the horrible spectre (to some) of Canberra’s pollution level on par or higher than New Delhi? It will pass once the fires finish and the smoke clears. All the Chicken Little’s can find another cause to angst about.

Not sure where the air quality figures are taken for “Canberra” as it isn’t indicative of the air quality in the burbs ie Florey at 3158 and Monash 4250.

Capital Retro6:20 pm 01 Jan 20

It’s important that those discrepencies are settled because a few EPAs would have relied on acceptable “air quality” readings to seek approval.

I don’t understand those figures. It’s as if there are two scales. The ACT health has the figure for Civic at 5pm as 3721, while on a couple of other sites it’s 885. Are there two scales, or is this measured differently, such as the other sites measures over 24 hours and averages, while the ACT site give the reading, as the example I gave, of 5pm. I find the two figures confusing, but whatever it is, it’s bad.

How come Summernats is being endorsed by ACT Health to go ahead (according to Andy Lopez on 666) in these hazardous conditions, after Health advised us not to go outside?

The burnout competition starts tomorrow. Surely at least that should be cancelled or postponed until the air quality improves to normal levels.

Interesting that Canberra and Delhi have the worst air quality, but Canberra has been experiencing very hot days and Delhi very cold days.

Capital Retro6:17 pm 01 Jan 20

Inversion layer at work.

Capital Retro2:26 pm 01 Jan 20

And only a few years ago Canberra was nominated as one of the world’s most liveable cities.

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