Keeping it cool: Canberra's record low
A blast of cold air from the Southern Ocean had Canberrans last night feeling as if they were back in the depths of winter as snow also fell during the day on the peaks above Thredbo and Perisher Valley and trees were brought down in the capital.
The mercury fell to just 1.6 degrees overnight, slipping .2 degrees below the previous record January low which was in 1956.
The near-freezing conditions were preceded by a chilly day in the capital, where high winds kept the apparent temperature to a cool top of 10 degrees.
The gusty winds also caused minor damage and blackouts with Canberra airport recording gusts up to 72km/h and Tuggeranong 61km/h.
The ACT State Emergency Service and ACT Fire and Rescue received 24calls for help. Most calls were about trees and branches across roads and pathways. Houses in Downer and Gungahlin sustained minor damage when trees fell on their roofs. A fallen tree also temporarily blocked southbound lanes on Northbourne Avenue.
ActewAGL acting general manager network services Lyn Iacumin said the high winds caused blackouts across Canberra, with most disruptions in Hawker, Kambah, Kaleen and Dickson.
''Our crews are working hard to restore the electricity supply to all customers as quickly as possible,'' she said last night.
''Crews will give priority to areas that present any risk to public safety, such as where powerlines have come down or trees are interfering with powerlines.''
Canberra's top temperature yesterday of 19 degrees was 9degrees below the average of 28degrees for January.
The average low temperature for Canberra in January is 13.2 degrees.
The Snowy Mountains, meanwhile, were experiencing a winter landscape in high summer yesterday.
Thredbo's maximum temperature yesterday barely crept above 0 degrees, making it the coldest January day on record.
Temperatures overnight reached lows of minus 3.7 degrees at Thredbo Top Station and minus 2.4 degrees at Perisher Valley.
Both areas recorded snow on the peaks yesterday, with photos of the white stuff posted on Facebook.
Thredbo Resort spokeswoman Susie Diver said by 1pm it was about 6 degrees in the village and zero at the top of the mountain. The Kosciuszko Track had a light snow cover. ''It's cold, it's windy and people who are usually walking around in shorts and T-shirts are in jackets, beanies and gloves today.''
Snow had been falling about half-way up the mountain yesterday morning, creating a winter landscape in some pockets. None of the snow was falling as low as the village.
''It's quite a novelty for the bikers and hikers here for a summer holiday to get a sprinkling of snow,'' she said.
Mrs Diver said she believed the weather system had passed and any snow that did fall overnight wouldn't be around for long.
''I really can't remember the last time it snowed in January,'' she said.
Thredbo Chamber of Commerce president John McIntyre was watching the summer snow from afar in the United States. ''It would be very quirky indeed if I am in Telluride, Colorado in the middle of winter at over 10,000ft above sea level amidst a very dry winter and my home in Thredbo has snow in the middle of summer,'' he said.
Weatherzone meteorologist Josh Fisher said a low-pressure system off the Victorian coast was sending icy south-west winds from the Southern Ocean across south-east NSW and the ACT. He said it was expected to move quickly across the Tasman Sea towards New Zealand with temperatures heading back up, with a top in the low to mid-20s forecast for Canberra today. While there were some reports in NSW the unseasonably cold summer was tricking trees into turning colours or dropping their leaves for autumn, the ACT is not there yet.
Territory and Municipal Services acting manager of urban treescape Michael Brice said under extreme drought conditions exotic deciduous trees had dropped their leaves early as a protective mechanism.
He hadn't seen evidence of that this year, probably because of the plentiful rainfall and the fact Canberra would need several days of very cold weather to spark an early autumn.
Just last month, Canberra Airport experienced its coldest December since 1966 and its equal fifth coldest on record, with an average maximum temperature of just 23.6 degrees, 2.5degrees below the historical average.
with Hamish Boland-Rudder