Warning Alert | Jan. 2: 12:49 a.m. EST
Officials order evacuations in New South Wales' southern coast, Australia, due to fires. Plan for transport, utility disruptions.

 

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This alert began 02 Jan 2020 05:47 GMT and is scheduled to expire 06 Jan 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Bushfires
  • Location: New South Wales 
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Evacuations; road closures; transport, utility, and business disruptions

 

Summary

The New South Wales (NSW) Rural Fire Service has issued a Tourist Leave Zone along the state's southern coast Jan. 2 amid ongoing bushfires. Officials have warned that high temperatures and strong winds are likely to pose a significant fire threat in the region from Jan. 4. The warning follows fires in southeastern NSW, Dec. 31, that left eight people dead after fires isolated several communities from firefighters and other emergency services.

As of Jan. 2, a very high fire danger warning is in effect for North Western, Northern Slopes, New England, Central Ranges, Southern Ranges, Monaro Alpine, and Southern Slopes forecast areas, as well as the Australian Capital Territory. Additionally, high fire danger warnings are in effect for the Illawarra/Shoalhaven, Far South Coast, Eastern Riverina, Greater Hunter, and Far North Coast forecast areas. Authorities will likely issue new alerts or update/rescind existing advisories as conditions change over the coming days. Officials have lifted a total fire ban for southeast NSW; however, authorities are highly likely to implement the restriction due to favorable fire conditions Jan. 4.

Authorities have not provided an estimated containment date for the fires; hot and dry conditions and strong winds continue to hamper firefighting efforts, and additional fire growth is likely in the coming days. Fires could lead to further evacuations, closure of secondary and primary roads, and general ground travel and business disruptions.

Transport
The bushfires have caused several transport disruptions throughout NSW. Authorities have reopened some roads to facilitate the departure of tourists and residents from southeastern NSW, including a section of Princes Highway between Tomerong and Nowra. However, several highways remain closed to traffic as of midday Jan. 2. The status of roads could change over the coming hours and days; authorities could close routes within the wildfire complex and evacuate additional communities due to fire activity and the needs of response operations. Traffic congestion is highly likely on northbound routes through at least Jan. 4; reports indicate that queues have formed at fueling stations and some stores in the region as people prepare to depart the area. Traffic disruptions are also likely during re-entry periods after authorities lift evacuation orders. Low visibility from smoke and possible ashfall could contribute to traffic delays and congestion in the region.

Smoke and ashfall from bushfires are causing poor air quality in Canberra and surrounding areas of ACT as of Jan. 2. Australia Post has suspended deliveries to and from the capital, while several businesses have scaled back or closed due to poor conditions. Low visibility could trigger flight disruptions at airports in the region, including Canberra Airport (CBR).

Power outages are likely within and near bushfire complexes.

Health
Smoke from fires is a mixture of gases and fine particles from burning trees, plants, and possibly building materials. Such smoke can hurt eyes, irritate the respiratory system, and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases. Smoke may also worsen symptoms for people who have pre-existing respiratory conditions, such as allergies, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).


 

Advice

Heed all evacuation orders. Seek updated information on road conditions if driving in the affected area; road closures and detours will cause increased congestion and delays. Individuals not under evacuation warnings should consider remaining inside well-ventilated, air-conditioned spaces to reduce exposure to smoke. Collect essential items - including identification and any important legal and travel documents - in a "go-bag" that can be easily accessed. Charge battery-powered devices in case of prolonged power outages.

 

Resources

New South Wales Rural Fire Service: www.rfs.nsw.gov.au
Bureau of Meteorology: www.bom.gov.au
NSW Emergency Management: www.emergency.nsw.gov.au
ACT Emergency Services Agency: esa.act.gov.au
Live Traffic New South Wales: www.livetraffic.com