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Storms, wind, heat and fire batter the Hunter

Ben McBurney, Monday October 14, 2013 - 10:06 EDT

It was was a wild day for the Hunter Valley yesterday, as hot, windy and firey conditions were followed by a band of thunderstorms in the evening.

The last few months have been very warm and dry over the Hunter Valley. For many parts, the July-October has been the warmest on record, while other places including Newcastle have seen only 30-40% of their average rainfall over this period.

It has also been a hot and dry start to October, with maximum temperatures running three to four degrees above average with little rainfall.

Yesterday saw another scorcher across the region, with temperatures reaching into the mid 30's.

For Cessnock, it was the hottest October day since 2004 as the mercury soared to 35.4 degrees. The town has now seen three days of at least 34 degrees so far this month, the first time this has occurred this early in the month since 1980.

Williamtown has now seen two days reach 35 degrees so far this month, the first time this has occurred this early in October also since 1980.

Damaging wind gusts also battered the region yesterday. At Murrurundi Gap, wind gusts reached 132km/h, the strongest wind gust the town has seen in at least a decade. Elsewhere, Newcastle saw gusts of 95km/h, while winds got as strong as 93km/h at Scone.

The intense winds combining with the hot, dry and windy conditions meant conditions for fires were ripe, with the fire danger index (FDI) reaching catastrophic in parts.

This lead to several fires in the region, with two noticeably large ones in the Port Stephens area which were out of control for some time, but are now being managed.

The wild day was capped off by a band of thunderstorms that entered the upper Hunter in the early evening, before reaching lower parts closer to midnight.

Thunderstorms brought much needed rain to the parched soils, as well as easing the fire conditions.

Nobby's Head in Newcastle collected 13.6mm to 9am today, its second heaviest fall since early July, although some parts around the city saw as much as 20-30mm.

Williamtown also collected 13.6mm, its heaviest rain in a few weeks, while further up the valley Scone recorded 9.2mm.

Conditions are much cooler over the region as a cold front crossed early this morning, which will also bring the risk of a few showers near the coast later this evening.

However, it will become much warmer around mid-week, with another hot, windy day and potentially thundery day likely on Thursday.

- Weatherzone

© Weatherzone 2013

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