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Canberra weather: Chance of thunderstorm on New Year’s Eve amid total fire ban

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There is a chance of a thunderstorm in Canberra on Tuesday amid hot and dry conditions and a severe fire danger rating for the territory. Emergency services are preparing for the risk of dry lightning and the possibility of winds up to 60 to 80 kilometres an hour with little respite overnight. It comes as Canberra is line to register its hottest December since records began. The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast a top of 38 degrees for Canberra on New Year’s Eve, with a possible storm in the afternoon. Strong north westerly winds could also impact the nation’s capital. “It’s quite a broad region that we have thunderstorm activity … but it’s covering the whole of the ACT,” bureau meteorologist Helen Reid said. “You’ll notice the winds even more [on Tuesday], temperatures are looking quite hot and that’s ahead of a cold front that’s moving through the southern part of the state. That’s not likely to effect Canberra until later in the day, however, with that is expected to be more chance of a thunderstorm.” There is only a 30 per cent chance of any rainfall in Canberra on Tuesday. A total fire ban is in place for Canberra until 6am on Wednesday. It forced the cancellation of Canberra’s New Year’s Eve fireworks. A severe fire danger rating is in place for Tuesday. It is very high for Wednesday and Thursday. Emergency Services Commissioner Georgeina Whelan warned the fire danger rating could move from severe to extreme, due to constant high temperatures and the severe weather warning from the Bureau of Meteorology. Commissioner Whelan said grass in the ACT was at 100 per cent curing as a result of the extended drought period, meaning it would burn easily and quickly if ignited. Winds and smoke haze have also threatened the cancellation of other New Year’s Eve activities in nation’s capital. The hot weather and lack of rain is expected to continue, Ms Whelan said. “We will be lucky to get the odd day where there will be respite,” she said. “But what I can say is when we recover from this three-day period, we can expect to see very high fire dangers and increasing temperatures right through the January period but we’re not expecting any rain, rain, decent rain to February.” Despite the extended period of fire danger, Ms Whelan did not join calls from interstate to compensate volunteer firefighters. “Within the ACT, we’re a very small jurisdiction but we are very, very privileged to have fantastic volunteers both in the rural fire services and right across our Emergency Services Agency,” she said. “Our volunteers are that – volunteers. What they do require is support, is respect and very good conditions. Within the ACT we are very privileged. We are one of the best equipped emergency services agencies in the country.” READ MORE: The workloads of volunteers and staff were being closely managed to ensure they could serve when needed. “Obviously as the season is extending, we will continue to monitor the amount of work that our volunteers are undertaking,” Ms Whelan said. “I’ve been very careful to balance the fatigue levels and the availability of our staff. We’re very lucky a number of our staff have very generous employers, particularly obviously the Commonwealth government, ACT government have generous volunteer leave, as does a number of our employers. “So we’ll continue to monitor the situation and obviously work very closely with government on any decision in the coming months.” Smoke haze is predicted to be persistent and Ms Reid said it could be worse on New Year’s Day. “I would expect smoke haze to get worse on Wednesday with that cold front moving through on Tuesday. When that has gone through and crossed over the south east of the country, it will bring an easterly flow … that will bring in smoke from fires that are to the east of the ACT,” Ms Reid said. On Monday the three air quality stations in Canberra had hazardous air quality index ratings. Data from ACT Health showed the average air quality index for December was well above the standard. Since 2012, the average air quality rating for the ACT was 30.4, which is considered to be “very good”. The average for December 2019 is 286, anything above 200 is considered to be hazardous. Heatwave conditions are expected to continue into the week and the temperature is forecast to reach 40 degrees on Friday and 41 degrees on Saturday. Canberra is also set to have had its hottest December on record. According to Weatherzone, the average daily temperature so far has been 31.2 degrees for Canberra in December. This is 5 degrees above average. The previous hottest December was in 1972, when there was an average temperature of 29.7 degrees.

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