Challenging conditions ahead for firefighters
Firefighters conducting backburning on the Darling Causeway describe the dangers they face and thank the support of the local community.PT1M24S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2vvtz 620 349 October 21, 2013
Firefighters and residents in fire-hit regions of the Blue Mountains and southern highlands will have to contend with variable winds and possible thunderstorms on Tuesday before worsening conditions on Wednesday.
The storms may bring localised rainfall of as much as 10-20 millimetres from the early afternoon, with winds in some coastal regions shifting almost ''around the dial'' during the day, Rob Sharpe, a meteorologist with Weatherzone, said.
Julie Evans, a duty forecaster at the Bureau of Meteorology, said the thunderstorms were unlikely to be widespread. ''We're not expecting significant enough falls to have an effect on the fires.''
NSW bushfires: Back burning in the Blue Mountains
A large back burning operation was carried out overnight to protect Bilpin and Mountain Lagoon as fire conditions deteriorate. Photo: Nick Moir
The storms, though, may bring other risks for threatened communities, including erratic winds. ''There will be a fair bit of lightning with these storms, which unfortunately could spark some more fires,'' Mr Sharpe said.
Light winds on Monday helped fire-fighting efforts with Mt Bryce on the central tablelands recording maximum wind gusts for the ranges of about 33km/h, Mr Sharpe said. In Penrith the temperature reached 37 degrees while a sea breeze kept the maximum just below 29 in the city and helped break up some of the smoke haze.
Sydney should have similar temperatures on Tuesday, while inland regions should again have low to mid-30s.
Live details of active fires - click on the icons for more information. Source: NSW Rural Fire Service.
The fire danger should pick up again on Wednesday as winds again quicken, possibly gusting to between 80km/h and 90km/h, Mr Sharpe said.
Thursday is expected to have cooler temperatures with the arrival of fresh - but gusty - south-westerly winds, and tumbling humidity levels, again making it tough for firefighters, Ms Evans said. ''There's no real relief in sight at the moment.''
While Tuesday may bring some isolated rain relief, most of the areas around Sydney remain remarkably dry.
Richmond, for instance, had its third-driest July-September period on record, with just 33.2mm of rain.
In October, the town has registered just 0.2mm so far, compared with a long-term average of 62mm for the month, Acacia Pepler, a climatologist at the Bureau of Meteorology, said.
Katoomba, in the Blue Mountains, has had just 1mm of rain so far this month compared with 92mm in a typical October.
Sydney has fared marginally better.
Its July-September rainfall was 83.2mm - or a third of the average for the period. The 10mm recorded so far in October at Observatory Hill place it in the driest 10 per cent of years in data going back more than 150 years, Ms Pepler said.