Weather News

Dust storm engulfs parts of SA, Victoria and NSW as weather bureau warns of damaging winds

By Camron Slessor, Thursday January 23, 2020 - 06:50 EDT
ABC image
Red skies amid a dust storm in outback Australia. - ABC

An intense dust storm has swept through a huge area of South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria, reducing visibility and prompting a warning to drivers on outback roads.

South Australian police advised motorists in northern parts of the state of the potential danger on Wednesday afternoon, particularly along the Barrier Highway between Peterborough and Yunta, about 300 kilometres north of Adelaide.

"The dust extends into NSW and [Victoria] and covers an estimated area of over 275,000 square kilometres," South Australia's Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said in a tweet.

Visibility had been reduced to 200 metres along parts of the Barrier Highway, police said.

"We had to just pull off the road near Truro, dust storm so bad," one person wrote on social media.

Some of the heaviest hit areas included South Australia's Riverland region and western parts of New South Wales, with photos showing orange skies around Broken Hill.

One resident near Hawker in the Flinders Ranges said the storm had started more than six hours ago and was showing "no sign of ending".

"Towels at doors and windows and inside is still full of dust," she said.

The BOM said areas of raised dust were being fanned by strong winds associated with a cold front.

"Very hot temperatures, very strong north-westerly winds ahead of the front [have been] kicking up areas of dust mostly over central and eastern parts of South Australia," senior forecaster Mark Anolak said.

"That dust is travelling into western New South Wales, so it's quite a wide area."

Kangaroo Island residents warned of bushfire ash

A severe weather warning for damaging and destructive winds was issued earlier on Wednesday for districts including the Flinders, Murraylands, Riverland and Mid North.

It was later updated to include the Lower Eyre Peninsula, Kangaroo Island and parts of Mount Lofty Ranges.

The BOM said winds were averaging up to 70kph in South Australia's far north, with stronger gusts expected.

"Squally thunderstorms may produce locally destructive wind gusts exceeding 125kph in the south of the Northeast Pastoral later this afternoon," the BOM said.

The State Emergency Service (SES) has advised that residents in the affected area should move vehicles under cover, secure loose items on their property, keep away from fallen power lines and stay indoors.

On Wednesday afternoon, ABC Riverland reporter Laura Collins said the dust had started to clear in that region, after the skies began darkening around midday.

"We saw winds get pretty strong in the area and blew in dust … and blanketed the region for a couple of hours," she told ABC Radio Adelaide.

"The sky was almost an orange, sepia colour.

"Travellers in the region for the school holidays maybe weren't expecting this much dust."

Concerns have been raised about the impact on those who suffer from asthma or other respiratory conditions.

"Please wear a mask if you really have to go outside … you really don't want to be breathing this into your lungs," one person wrote on social media.

"Put towels under your doors so it doesn't leach into your house."

Dust and ash from the Ravine fire on Kangaroo Island was also affecting visibility on local roads, the Country Fire Service (CFS) said.

The CFS urged drivers near Cygnet River, in the Roper Road area, and near Timber Creek Road and the Rowland Hill Highway to take extra care.


© ABC 2020

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