Warning Alert | Jan. 3: 12:59 p.m. EST
Officials order evacuations, state of emergency in New South Wales' southern coast, Australia, due to bushfires, Jan. 4.

 

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This alert began 03 Jan 2020 17:57 GMT and is scheduled to expire 10 Jan 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Bushfires
  • Location: New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory 
  • Timeframe: Through at least Jan. 11
  • Impact: Evacuations; road closures; transport, utility, and business disruptions

 

Summary

The New South Wales (NSW) Rural Fire Service maintains a Tourist Leave Zone along the state's southern coast Jan. 4 amid ongoing bushfires. Forecast models indicate that high temperatures and strong winds will persist in the region over the coming days, leading to an increased fire threat. In response to the fires, Australian officials have declared a state of emergency for New South Wales, which is in effect until at least Jan. 10. As of early Jan. 4, there are 151 fires burning across New South Wales, including two at the watch and act alert level.

As of Jan. 4, an extreme fire danger warning is in effect for Illawarra/Shoalhaven, Far South Coast, Monaro Alpine, Australian Capital Territory (ACT), Southern Ranges, Southern Slopes, and Eastern Riverina. A severe fire danger warning is in effect for Greater Hunter, Greater Sydney Region, and Central Ranges. A very high fire danger warning is in effect for the North Coast, Far North Coast, New England, Northern Slopes, North Western, Lower Central West Plains, Southern Riverina, and Northern Riverina. The rest of the state is under a high fire danger warning. Authorities will likely issue new alerts or update/rescind existing advisories as conditions change over the coming days. Officials have ordered a total fire ban for all of New South Wales, 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; the highway remains closed from Imlay Road to the Victoria border. Several other highways remain closed to traffic as of early Jan. 4. 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. 11. 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. 4. Low visibility could trigger flight disruptions at airports in the region, including those serving Canberra (CBR) and Sydney (SYD).

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

Airports
Canberra Airport: www.canberraairport.com.au/
Sydney Airport: www.sydneyairport.com.au/