Strong wind drives dust across Canberra/Gungahlin.

15 April 2009.

It was an eerie day in Canberra yesterday (15 April 2009) as a brown haze blocked out the sun and shrouded landmarks while a ferocious wind whipped through the city.

Dust, and lots of it, blew in from South West NSW, as far away as Albury and Wagga Wagga.  Bureau of Meteorology spokesman Kenn Batt said a cold front had caused the dust to sweep in.  “Strong winds can happen ahead of cold fronts, and what happens is the wind whips up the red dust out to the west and blows it in over us,” he said.

The drought meant there was plenty of top soil and dust to be kicked up.  “And that’s where the strong surface winds come into play.  They pick up the dust and the dust gets taken into the stable air and is actually suspended in the air and was then blown from west to east.” 

Winds gusts of up to 80km/h (56km/h in Gungahlin) blew branches and tress over roads and houses.  Emergency services responded to 47 calls for help, including a tree, 15m tall and 3m wide, knocked on to the roof of a house in Yarralumla.  Luckily, no one was at home at the time.

In the skies, Airservices Australia spokesman Matt Wardell said the reduced visibility caused by the dust had not affected the ability of planes to take off or land at Canberra Airport and there were no ‘significant delays’.  However, he said a strong crosswind on the runway had made things a little tricky.  “That means the wind is blowing directly across the runway, as opposed to up and down, because normally aircraft take off and land into the wind,” Mr Wardell said.  “They can certainly land when there is a crosswind blowing across the runway, it just takes a little bit more skill.”

Some building worksites were forced to close early.  Master Builders Association general manager for group training Wendy Ten said they had sent home five apprentices at five different worksites.  “Obviously it depends on where they’re working, if it’s an internal environment where the wind doesn’t have an impact, those students won’t need to be sent home,” Ms ten said.  “But if it’s an OH&S risk for someone who is out in an open area and the winds has an impact on them, then we would send them home.”

And across the dining world of Canberra some alfresco restaurants and cafes were forced to move customers inside.  In Civic, Essen and Gus’s Café pulled shutters down to enclose their outside dining areas.  Gus’s Café manager Jason Siharath said the wind had broken a glass door leading into Garema Arcade.

Canberra - before the dust

Canberra - during the dust

 

 

 

Source: Canberra Times - 16 April 2009.

 

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