3 February 2020

Smoky haze due over Canberra this afternoon as cold change arrives from south

| Michael Weaver
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Orroral Valley fire

An ACT Rural Fire Service vehicle patrols the Orroral Valley fire this week. Photo: Michael Weaver, Region Media.

A moderate southerly change will move across Canberra later today, with the clear skies expected to have clouded once again with smoke haze from the Orroral Valley fire.

The Bureau of Meteorology is reporting the change has brought snow to parts of Tasmania this morning and is expected to reach Canberra between 6-7 pm this evening.

“It was SNOWING at Little Pine Lagoon this morning. A cold air mass is chilling out over Tasmania,” the BOM said via Twitter.

BOM forecaster Abrar Shabren told Region Media strong westerly winds will precede the southerly change, which will push a heavy smoke haze across Canberra.

“The latest wind chart is predicting a south to south-easterly wind change that will be pushing smoke haze over Canberra again,” Mr Shabren said.

“At around the 6-7 pm mark we will start seeing the change happening gradually and it will take greater effect to the mid and later part of the evening.”

Wind speeds up to 30 km/h are expected.

The ACT Emergency Services Agency said a change in wind direction is expected to bring heavy smoke over urban areas of Canberra, in particular the southern suburbs, from approximately 4 pm this afternoon.

“This smoke is coming from the Orroral Valley Fire and it will likely linger until tomorrow,” an ESA spokesperson said.

“Canberrans are reminded to please call Triple Zero (000) if you see an unattended fire (notably a visible flame or distinct column of smoke), not just because you see or smell smoke.”

Smoke over Canberra this afternoon from the Orroral Valley fire. Photo: Supplied, ESA

Mr Shabren also said the longer-term forecast is looking promising for rain later this week and into the weekend.

“The entire east coast from the Great Dividing Range to the coastal fringe should see widespread rainfall with heavier totals and embedded thunderstorm activity. I can’t say how much rain will fall but it will be widespread,” he said.

Meanwhile, the state of emergency has been lifted for the ACT, with rural areas to remain on a state of alert with the Orroral Valley fire still active in the Namadgi National Park.

“This decision is based on the advice of ESA Commissioner Georgeina Whelan and her team, as well as the weather forecast for the days ahead and the current fire behaviour,” said ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr.

He said more favourable weather conditions will allow emergency services to work on managing the bushfire. Strong containment lines have been put in place to protect both Tharwa Village and the Lanyon Valley and firefighters will remain on the fire ground.

“Given the ongoing firefighting operations, Commissioner Whelan will continue as the emergency controller to enable her to coordinate resources across government,” Mr Barr said.

Thousands of ACT Rural firefighters, as well as interstate and international personnel, have been fighting this fire throughout the week, both in the air and on the ground.

Australian Defence Force personnel have been building containment lines, while ACT police officers are coordinating road closures and doorknocking in Canberra suburbs.

“We have seen throughout this summer that weather and fire conditions can be highly unpredictable. With the current size of the Orroral Valley fire at over 55,000 hectares, there remains a risk that this fire could again pose a significant threat to ACT lives and property and we may need to return to a State of Emergency if the situation requires it,” Mr Barr said.

Minister for Police and Emergency Services Mick Gentleman said the fire will continue to burn through the Namadgi National Park.

“The fire has unfortunately burnt through close to 50 per cent of the National Park and this is likely to grow throughout the week. It is a significant ecological disaster for the Territory and there will be ramifications that we will need to address in due course,” Mr Gentleman said.

“I know the community, particularly those in South Tuggeranong, have been appreciative of the level of support and information they have received as part of the state of emergency. This is a credit to the Commissioner and her team who will continue to work on fighting this fire and protecting the ACT as the bushfire season continues.”

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