Damaging winds, heavy rainfall, and golf-ball sized hailstones brought by severe thunderstorms hit parts of suburban Melbourne and other southern areas of Victoria state in the afternoon (local time) of Sunday, January 19. The storms moved through New South Wales (NSW), as of Monday, January 20, causing flash flooding, landslides, associated transportation disruptions and significant damage, notably in Canberra. On Monday, a ten minute hailstorm hit Canberra at around 12:00, with winds of up to 116km/h (72mi/h), resulting in material damages, falling trees and power outages. Two people were also injured in the storm. In southern Sydney, Endeavour Energy reported that two storms and subsequent collapsed trees have cut power to 2200 homes and caused chaotic conditions on the roads on Monday.
Despite the recent rains, bush fires remain a threat in the region, particularly in NSW. According to the NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS), as of Monday, January 20, there are still 66 active bush fires. A heightened security presence, road closures, telecommunication disruptions, and power outages are to be expected in the vicinity of any wildfire. Up-to-date information on the fires in NSW can be found here, and in Victoria here.
Over 10.3 million hectares (25.5 million acres) of land have been burned, and at least 2000 houses destroyed since the wildfires broke out on October 9. At least 28 people have also died in the region as of January 13. Authorities have indicated that the fires were due to high temperatures and droughts.
Wildfires are an annual event in Australia between December and February; however, authorities have been on high alert since September 2015 over unseasonably warm temperatures, prompting scientists to speculate that climate change could be extending and increasing the intensity of the fire season.
Individuals in the affected areas are advised to monitor local weather reports, keep abreast of warnings, anticipate transportation and power disruptions, confirm road conditions prior to heading out, and adhere to any instructions issued by local authorities, notably evacuation orders.
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