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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Natasha May

Eastern Australia wakes up to cold weather, snow, wild surf and flight cancellations

A car drives in heavily snowed conditions past the Mt Franklin road intersection in the Brindabella mountains outside Canberra
Cold weather across eastern Australia saw several towns record their coldest May day on record, while Perisher, Thredbo, Falls and Hotham all recorded 10-20cm of snowfall on Sunday. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Cold and gusty southerly winds across eastern Australia are causing temperatures to plunge, as well as dangerous surf conditions and flight cancellations.

Every state except Western Australia and the Northern Territory experienced a minimum temperature below zero Monday morning, according to Dean Narramore, a senior meteorologist at the Bureau of Meteorology.

“Cold air has penetrated well inland and well north,” Narramore said.

Temperatures dropped four to eight degrees below average across all of central and eastern Australia, but strong winds made the apparent temperature feel up to 10 degrees colder in some locations, he said.

“Around the Sydney area, it felt closer to zero earlier this morning. And even right now it’s 10 degrees but it feels like one in Sydney right now,” Narramore said at 8am Monday.

The damaging winds have also caused the bureau to issue a warning for dangerous and hazardous surf conditions for much of the NSW coast.

The BoM has predicted wave heights in excess of six metres, which have already been observed off the south coast Monday morning.

Conditions could cause coastal erosion for south facing beaches on the high tide, Narramore said.

The strong wind has also seen dozens of flights cancelled and delayed at Sydney airport after Airservices Australia directed the airport to single runway operations overnight.

At least 50 domestic flights were cancelled Monday, with Qantas cancelling 20 services Monday morning due to the weather.

Some locations have also experienced their coldest temperatures for this time of year following the “first big widespread snow event of the year”, Narramore said.

Omeo, Bombala, Cooma and Canberra recorded their coldest May day on record Sunday, with Canberra only reaching a maximum of 7.8C and Cooma shivering through a chilly top of 1.7C.

The “cold and woolly weekend” saw widespread snow not only throughout the alpine areas but also the low-lying areas around south-east New South Wales including Cooma, the Snowy Mountains, the high terrain around the Canberra area and the Central Tablelands, Narramore said.

Parliament House in Canberra against a backdrop of snow capped mountains
While heavy hail hit Canberra suburbs, and the hills surrounding Canberra recorded one centimetre of snow on Sunday, there was no snow in Canberra itself. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

The alpine resorts of Perisher, Thredbo, Falls and Hotham all saw between 10 and 20cm of snowfall on Sunday.

While heavy hail hit Canberra suburbs, and the hills surrounding Canberra recorded one centimetre of snow on Sunday, there was no snow in Canberra itself, Narramore said.

“Pictures of everything being white [in Belconnen] was actually large accumulations of small hail rather than snow.”

The snow event was not unusual at this time of year, “more of a sign that the winter is definitely not far away,” he said.

The strong low pressure system driving the weather has “thankfully” moved off the NSW coast Monday morning, Narramore said.

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