Queensland towns vie for heat peak
No let-up in the heat for much of Central Australia. Photo: Supplied
Birdsville and Thargomindah, two remote Queensland towns, are vying for the state's top temperature in decades as the current heatwave sears large regions of inland Australia.
Birdsville recently jumped to 49 degrees, equalling a level reached by the town in 1981, and not far from a 49.2 level reached in 1972.
"The trees are chasing the dogs"
Thargomindah, about 1100 kilometres west of Brisbane, earlier touched 48.8 degrees before a thunderstorm doused the extreme heat, lowering it to 44 degrees, said Brett Dutschke, senior meteorologist at Weatherzone.
It's been Queensland turn today for the most scorching temperatures, although other towns located near the Corner Country where NSW, South Australia and Queensland meet had similarly blistering heat.
In fact, it’s getting so hot in outback Queensland that roads are melting and some rail services are being halted.
Train services in central Queensland are being slowed down, with some grinding to a complete halt.
Queensland Rail confirms that the Spirit of the Outback service was terminated at Emerald yesterday and passengers are being taken by bus to Mount Isa.
Moomba yesterday reached a maximum of 49.6 degrees - the hottest recorded in Australia for 15 years.
Other towns nearing that mark today include the NSW towns of Bourke at 48 and Walgett at 48.5.
Some moisture is finally moving in from the delayed northern monsoon and southern coastal regions are cooler than in recent days. Heat, though, is again building up in areas to the west of Uluru, Dr Dutschke said.
"Once we get to Tuesday to Thursday of (this) week, the interior could be just as hot as today," he said.
By Thursday, a large area of Victoria and South Australia will see heat in the low- to mid-40s, while Tasmania may see temperatures in the mid-30s.
"I'm sure we'll get some severe fire danger weather and total fire ban days," he said. "The air won't be as dry as the last batch of serious fire conditions."
Dr Dutschke said that while coastal regions had enjoyed periods of cool conditions, the interior of Australia had seen three weeks of unrelenting and unusually hot conditions.
"It's the duration and the intensity of the heatwave that's making it the stand-out," he said.
At least nine of the first 12 days of 2013 have seen average maximums nationwide of above 39 degrees. At least seven of the hottest 20 days in terms of average maximums have fallen in this year alone although the all-time record of 50.7 degrees at one site - Oodnadatta on January 2, 1960 - remains unbroken.
Some reports claimed that QR National feared the railtracks would buckle in the extreme heat, but a spokeswoman said it was more out of concern for the passengers.
Aurizon, which runs the state’s coal railways, is inspecting its lines to make sure tracks haven’t been damaged.
‘‘Due to the high temperatures currently being experienced, Aurizon has imposed speed restrictions on various parts of its central Queensland coal network,’’ a spokeswoman told AAP.
In the far north, at Cooktown and Hopevale, residents were without power on Saturday night after what Ergon Energy said was ‘‘catastrophic malfunction’’ at a local substation.
‘‘Luckily the power is back on for most people and we have some more portable generators on the way,’’ a spokesman said.
‘‘But it certainly wouldn’t have been a terribly comfortable evening for a lot of people.’’
Towns in the state’s far west have been sweltering in the heat, even at night, for weeks.
Birdsville, Thargomindah and Ballera all recorded temperatures above 37C at midnight (AEST) on Sunday.
The bitumen roads in those towns are melting daily, but locals say they’re getting used to the extreme heat.
Kate McDonald, who manages the Birdsville Hotel, said the temperature on the verandah is currently 50C.
‘‘For us, hot is hot, but it’s never been quite like this,’’ she told AAP.
‘‘We’ve had hot weather for 10-11 weeks now. You get hot water from the cold water taps.
‘‘There’s no break from it at night either, it’s really hot when it’s dark.’’
Nigel, who was cooling down at the Birdsville Hotel bar but was shy about giving his surname, said it was so hot ‘‘the trees are chasing the dogs’’.
‘‘Hoping that they pee on ‘em,’’ he said.
He predicted a cool change would come through - in June.