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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Mostafa Rachwani

WA’s Pilbara hits 45C as large swathes of Australia swelter in heatwave

The Pilbara region of Western Australia, where temperatures hit 45C amid a nationwide heatwave. Photograph: John White Photos/Getty Images

Large swathes of Australia sweltered amid a heatwave on Friday, including in the Pilbara, where temperatures reached 45C.

Sumaoa Bayliss, the manager at the Red Sands Tavern in the northern Western Australian town of Newman – where it reached 44C – said life goes on in the dangerous conditions, albeit under air conditioning.

“People’s behaviour only changes to a certain extent. We mainly stay indoors – we can’t live without air con,” she said.

Vulnerable members of the community can spend the day in public spaces such as libraries and community centres, which are all air-conditioned.

Bayliss said that while her business largely remains the same, their orders do change slightly due to the heat.

“People order a lot more ice cold beers, people want glasses of ice with their spirits, or iced coffees, but otherwise, it stays the same. People are just used to it – it’s part of living in Pilbara.”

Only Marble Bar and Pannawonica reached higher temperatures than Newman, peaking at 45C on Friday.

It comes amid severe to extreme heatwave conditions in western parts of Australia, with low- to severe-intensity heatwave conditions affecting much of southern and south-eastern parts of the country.

The Bureau of Meteorology has issued a severe heatwave warning for the Kimberley, Pilbara, Goldfields, North Interior and South Interior districts of Western Australia, warning the heat could be dangerous for many people.

“We are seeing severe to extreme heatwave conditions across large parts of inland WA, with temperatures in the mid to high 40s,” the bureau’s senior meteorologist Dean Narramore said.

“That heat has been sitting there for a few weeks and some of that heat has now been dragged into central and now south-eastern parts of the country over the last few days.”

The BoM is advising people in the region to seek a place to keep cool, such as libraries, community centres or shopping centres, and to close windows and draw blinds or curtains at home.

Melbourne hit 38C on Friday, the first time it has done so in February since 2019, but a cool change was expected through the city from around 6pm, with an abrupt drop in 5-10C expected.

Temperatures were expected to peak in the low 40s across northern Victoria on Friday, with Mildura, Swan Hill and Kerang all peaking at 42C.

By Friday afternoon, Bendigo, Shepparton, Echuca and Seymour had all crossed 40C, with much of the state hovering in the late 30s.

Conditions are expected to ease over the weekend, but temperatures are expected to remain in the low to mid 30s.

New South Wales and southern Queensland are forecast to feel that heat on Saturday, with a peak of 31C in Sydney and 38C in Sydney’s west, with low-intensity heatwave conditions to continue across much of the region over the weekend and into early next week.

Towns such as Condobolin, Cobar, Scone, Narromine and Brewarrina are all expected to see temperatures cross 40C on Saturday, with much of north-western NSW expecting temperatures to remain in the high 30s throughout the weekend.

Narramore said the heat was being brought on by a cold front moving through the southern parts of the country.

“And that’s dragged the heat down from central and Western Australia yesterday into South Australia and then today into Victoria. And the cool change coming is being driven by a weak front that is moving through the southern parts of Victoria, introducing those cooler west to south-westerly winds.

“But ahead of it, we’re getting that really dry hot continental air, and that’s what’s driving our temperatures into the high 30s to low 40s.”

Severe weather warnings for heavy rainfall have been issued for northern Queensland, including for Cairns, Cooktown and Port Douglas.

More than 300mm of rain fell overnight on the Daintree forests, with heavy rainfall also affecting the Gold Coast and around north-west Queensland.

Southern areas of the state are expected to swelter over the weekend as well, with towns such as St George, Bollon, Cunnamulla and Roma all forecast to hit 40C on Sunday.

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