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Living in Wyndham, the hottest town in Australia, where roads melt and your skin sizzles

By Irena Ceranic, Thursday May 10, 2018 - 09:02 EST
ABC licensed image
Since 1988, Wyndham has a year-round daytime and overnight mean temperature of 29.3C. - ABC licensed

Paul Cavanagh has lived in Wyndham, Western Australia's northernmost town, for 22 years. He describes it as a friendly little place, which at times feels like an oven.

He once saw a road get so hot, the bitumen melted and trickled into the street gutter.

That is not unusual for Wyndham, which has the highest long-term average temperature of any town in Australia.

Since 1988, the town has recorded a year-round daytime and overnight mean temperature of 29.3 degrees Celsius.

The temperature can reach the high 40s some days, but the yearly average maximum temperature is a more pleasant 35.6C

Despite living in a well-insulated home, with few windows and a white roof to reflect the blistering sun's rays, Mr Cavanagh's electricity bill comes in at $800 every two months — a tell-tale sign that his air conditioner hardly ever gets a break.

"The worst month would probably be January. If you don't get any rain it can be pretty unbearable," he said.

"You almost feel like you've had your head shoved in a microwave, and then it'll start raining."

The East Kimberley town is surrounded by mudflats and rocky ranges.

"The good thing about when it rains or the wet season starts is after a couple of days of rain, it cools the rock down," Mr Cavanagh said.

"But if it doesn't rain, the rock seems to go up half a degree every day, and you're just living in a big oven."

Mr Cavanagh said during the summer months, working outdoors in the middle of the day was out of the question.

"Normally you're sweating in the morning in the air conditioning, so if in the middle of the day you lean up against a machine or something, you can feel your skin sizzle," he said.

Swimming in hot soup

Kym Shepard grew up in Wyndham, a town she describes as "unique".

"It takes a certain sort of person to live in Wyndham and a certain sort of resilience," she said.

"Wyndham is surrounded by hills, so the heat tends to get trapped in there."

Swimming to cool off is not always the best option, as there are crocodiles in the nearby waterhole and pools offer little relief.

"The water up here is like swimming in pea soup. It's hot, it's thick and it doesn't cool you down until you get out and stand in a breeze," Ms Shepard said.

Whatever little respite the town's pool may offer, this has been off the cards for many in recent days. Only last week, the town's swimming pool was shut for repairs after being vandalised.

Locals said that would not be too much of a problem because they were now heading into the dry season and it was starting to cool down.

Of course, by "cool down", they mean the temperature is hovering in the low to mid-30s.

Ms Shepard herself now lives in the east Kimberley town of Kununurra, just an hour's drive away, where it is a little cooler.

"When I go over [to Wyndham] now it nearly kills me. The heat does get to everybody there," she said.


© ABC 2018

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