Tweed Daily News

Dust up on the Tweed

IT looked scary, but the Tweed survived one of Australia's biggest dust storms without any significant dust-ruction.

The enormous storm, created by strong south westerly winds, had hit Sydney overnight and was gradually intensifying across the whole state and into Queensland.

Tweed residents woke to hazy conditions, but by lunchtime the atmosphere had turned an eerie shade of yellow and continued to darken until it hit a dark orange gloom.

Battling to shine through the thick air, the sun turned a metallic blue, further adding to the eerie and strange scenes that engulfed huge areas of Australia's east coast.

Airports were closed and health authorities encouraged the public to avoid strenuous exercise and stay indoors.

The Bureau of Meteorology issued a strong wind warning for the North Coast, from Smoky Cape to Point Danger, with westerly 20 to 30 knot winds, seas of two to three metres and visibility below 1000 metres.

The low visibility caused traffic to slow on the highways and Tweed police urged motorists to take care.

“In a dust storm visibility is seriously reduced, and drivers will need to slow down and switch on their lights,” Superintendent Michael Kenny said.

“I am especially concerned as many roads within the command are 110km-signposted, and a high proportion of drivers are visitors to the area, which increases the potential risk to motorists.

“We urge drivers to take responsibility, slow down, and drive to the conditions.”

There were crashes on Sexton Hill and Ducat Street, but yesterday afternoon Tweed police said there had been no significant increase in traffic matters. Firefighters also reported a quiet day.

According to a New South Wales Ambulance spokesperson there was a definite spike in callers complaining of breathing difficulties yesterday. He said the northern region had received 99 complaints, well above normal and more were sure to come in as the day progressed.

Senior forecaster at the Bureau of Meteorology, Bryan Rolstone said south westerly winds backed by a wind change coming through the south east had caused the enormous dust storm - which stretched from Townsville to Sydney and was clearly visible on satellite images.

He said the dust and Gold Coast had been picked up from northern New South Wales.

“Probably in the middle of the day the dust will be at its thickest, then during the afternoon it will ease, then fade out gradually,” he said yesterday.

According to Mr Rolstone, the dry months of August and September were the peak time for dust storms, with westerly winds easily picking up vast amounts of dry soil. Yesterday's dust storm reminded him of an extremely severe event back in 2002 at the height of the drought.

The Gold Coast Airport operated on a case-by-case basis as the dust-storm hit, with all inbound services diverted to Brisbane due to poor disability.

“There have been substantial delays and cancellations throughout the day due to the storm, which hit Sydney this morning before travelling north and arriving at Gold Coast Airport around midday,” a spokesperson said.

“At 5pm this afternoon Gold Coast Airport had recorded 19 inbound cancellations and experienced delays of up to two hours throughout the day as a direct result of the storm front.

“It is expected that these delays and cancellations will be ongoing into this evening.”

Conditions are expected to improve today.

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