Victorian heatwave a 'serious public health issue'
Victoria's chief health officer, an Ambulance Victoria spokesperson and the Fire Services Commissioner give updated advice and warnings on Wednesday afternoon over the state's wave of hot weather.PT3M55S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-30utd 620 349 January 15, 2014
Heat weary Melburnians have received another blow with Thursday's forecast revised upwards to a scorching 44 degrees.
The Bureau of Meterology issued the news late on Wednesday, revising its forecast up from 41 degrees to the new top temperature.
10am Wednesday... Must be time for a dip. The hot and bothered sought respite at Albert Park. Photo: James Boddington
This will be the warmest January day since 2009, when the temperature hit 45 degrees.
The revised forecast comes on the back of news that up to 100,000 Victorian premises could be without power this week as demand cripples the state's electricity grid.
Melburnians endured a top temperature of 42 degrees at 1.31pm on Wednesday, before dropping to 37.8 by 3pm.
Novel ways to beat the heat... a quick fountain dip at the Australian Open. Photo: Joe Armao
Storms rolled in with the weather bureau issuing a warning at 2.30pm of damaging winds and large hailstones for Melbourne, Ballarat, Geelong, Traralgon, Bairnsdale and Orbost over the next few hours.
Overnight minimum temperatures will be marginally cooler than Tuesday night, with the temperature expected to dip to 26 degrees.
A total fire ban has been declared for the whole state on Thursday.
Melbourne heats up
A young man does a flying dive from the Frankston Jetty. Photo: Justin McManus
Tens of thousands of Victorians sweltered through Tuesday night as the heatwave played havoc with electricity supplies.
As noon temperatures soared on Wednesday, firefighters battled blazes across Victoria, with most fires raging in the Mallee and northern Wimmera regions.
A lasting cool change is not expected until Friday evening.
Melbourne's overnight hourly temperatures.
By 10am on Wednesday, Melbourne was already a sweltering 37 degrees, with the mercury climbing steadily.
Temperatures in north-west and western Victoria reached the low 40s by 1pm, with Charlton, Hopetoun, Mildura and Swan Hill leading the state with the hottest temperatures.
Melbourne reached 41 degrees at 12.30pm, but dipped to 39.7 at 1pm.
The mercury also climbed into the 40s in Bendigo, with 41, Shepparton, 40, and Bairnsdale, 42, while Geelong, Wangaratta and Ballarat hovered just below 40 with 38, 38 and 36, respectively.
The town of Birchip – 123 kilometres north-west of Horsham – is expected to hit 46 on Wednesday, with an afternoon storm predicted. Thursday is expected to stay hot, with a top of 45 expected.
Tuesday night was the second hottest on record, second only a sweaty 30.6 degrees – recorded in February 1902 and on January 12, 2010.
Electricity supply disrupted
About 15,000 Citipower customers and 20,000 Powercor customers lost power overnight in the 24 hours to 6am Wednesday.
Brunswick was among the most affected in Melbourne with 6546 customers without power from 6.30pm. Nearly two-thirds were restored by 8pm with the remainder back by just after 10pm, Citipower and Powercor spokesman Drew Douglas said.
He said a failed insulator at the West Brunswick zone substation caused the power failure. It took until early Wednesday morning to be fully repaired.
Powercor had 20,000 customers without power overnight on Tuesday with Horsham (6000), Laverton (4500), Castlemaine (4000) and Ouyen (1300) the most affected. Other towns to suffer include Maryborough, Kyneton and Charlton. Late-night lightning caused some of the outages, but the majority were caused by heat issues, Mr Douglas said.
He said 299 Powercor customers were without power at midday on Wednesday and three Citipower customers.
Power distributor United Energy had 20,000 customers without power — most during the peak usage times of 5pm to 8pm on Tuesday night — as hot workers returned to hot homes to put on fans and air conditioners.
Early on Wednesday morning, United Energy had 14 areas listed with major power failures, with hundreds of customers affected, including those in Mordialloc, Cheltenham, Beaumauris, Mornington, Baxter, Chelsea Heights, Rosebud, Dromana, Endeavour Hills, Blairgowrie and East Bentleigh. In some suburbs more than one area was affected.
United Energy spokesman Jai McDermott said the Mornington Peninsula was the most affected area overnight.
Most of the heat-related distribution problems were caused by broken fuses under stress from the heat, he said. Mr McDermott said some delays in the return of electricity were related to visual fire-safety checks during hot weather, which were normally an automated process.
He added it was the first chance the power company had to analyse power supply during a heatwave using smart meters, which could help avoid outages in the future.
Mr McDermott said customers could help reduce the pressure on the system by turning off appliances that are not in use, by closing blinds and reducing air conditioning unit temperatures to 24 to 26 degrees.
‘‘There are little things that householders can do that do not compromise comfort,’’ Mr McDermott said.
Other suburbs affected included Brunswick, Gladstone Park (113) and Williamstown, with 229 customers.
Hundreds of Powercor customers were without power overnight Tuesday. In Geelong’s Bell Park, 143 customers lost power at 8.30pm on Monday with no listed time for it to be restored. Another 163 lost power on Wednesday morning in a planned outage.
In Ballarat, 63 customers and in Trentham 39 customers lost power on Wednesday morning. Ballarat was listed as restored by 10.30am.
The Australian Energy Market Operator has forecast that Victorians will use about 10,150 megawatts of electricity on Wednesday, slightly more on Thursday of around 10,400 MW and about 10,200 MW on Friday. Victorians on a typical summer day in Victoria use about 6600 MW a day.
Children locked in cars
Paramedics responded to eight cases of children locked in cars on Tuesday as the mercury surged through to 42 degrees.
On Monday one of the state’s top ambulance officers Paul Holman described leaving children in a locked car akin to holding ‘‘a gun to their head’’, yet still paramedics were called to treat children locked in cars in the heat.
Mr Holman said people were ignoring warnings about leaving children in cars. Two children were found distressed in a car on Wednesday.
Ambulance officers also responded to 83 cases of heat exposure on Tuesday, up from 11 on Monday.
Warning to parents on hydration
The Royal Children’s Hospital has reminded parents to be on the lookout for symptoms of dehydration this week, especially in children who are sick or already have a fever.
“The main problem that kids run into with heat is dehydration,” said paediatric emergency physician Dr Amanda Stock.
‘‘When kids get sick they don’t want to drink and they’re more at risk.
“For children who already have a fever it’s really important that parents make sure they’re drinking regularly and if they’re not drinking or are vomiting they need to see their doctor.”
Dr Stock said parents should offer water to their children regularly, but never force them to drink.
“Children need to be reminded to drink water,” she said. “Especially for children under 10 make sure that you’re offering them water every hour [and] tell them to drink when they’re thirsty.
‘‘They get dehydrated much quicker than adults because they have less total body water.”
Dr Stock also called on parents to be vigilant around pools and baths this summer and to never leave children alone in cars.
“If high temperature heat is imposed on a child from being left in a hot car then that is incredibly harmful,” she said.
“The main thing is keeping kids cool and keeping their fluids up. Put them in a tepid bath or use a damp cloth to cool children down.”