2.30pm: Warmer than expected temperatures and strong winds have seen the Illawarra’s fire danger rating upgraded from very high to severe on Wednesday afternoon.
At 2pm, it was 32.5 degrees at Bellambi, just half a degree off the suburb’s hottest September day on record, and 30.8 degrees at Albion Park.
Peak temperatures of 32.6 and 33.0, respectively, have been recorded at both locations.
A northwesterly wind gust of 72km/h was recorded at Albion Park at 12.10pm, while the Bellambi weather station registered a 65km/h gust at 1.46pm.
Hot temperatures, gusty winds and low humidity have prompted the fire danger rating being upgraded.
Meanwhile, Illawarra RFS crews responded to reports of smoke at Darkes Forest.
“The smoke has been sighted within the hazard reduction that was conducted about 2 weeks ago,” a post on the Illawarra RFS District Facebook page said.
10.45am: Illawarra/Shoalhaven residents have been put on alert as hot, dry and windy conditions raise the region’s fire danger rating to very high.
Temperatures had already hit 30 degrees in some areas at 10.30am – about 10 degrees above average maximum for this time of year.
At 10.30am, it was 30.3 degrees at Albion Park, 29.3 at Nowra, 28.3 at Kiama, and 27.9 degrees at Bellambi.
Hot, dry and gusty west/northwesterly winds are expected to strengthen on Wednesday – ahead of an approaching cold front, with cooler winds behind the front set to to drop maximum temperatures by as much as half on Thursday.
Wednesday’s hot and windy conditions have prompted the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) to warn of elevated fire danger.
A total fire ban has been issued for the Greater Sydney area. No fire ban is current for the Illawarra/Shoalhaven, but very-high fire danger has been forecast.
Under a very-high fire danger rating, the RFS advises people to keep themselves informed, monitor conditions and be ready to act if necessary.
The hottest September day on record at Bellambi was in 2008, when the mercury climbed to 33 degrees. Albion Park’s warmest maximum for September was 34 degrees in 2006.
Sweaty start to Wednesday
It was an uncomfortable start to the morning for Wollongong residents, thanks to higher than usual morning temperatures that failed to drop below 20 degrees in some suburbs.
The coolest it got at Bellambi on Tuesday night was 16.6 degrees at 8.54pm. The mercury had climbed to 22.8 degrees by midnight and has remained above 20 degrees ever since.
The coastal suburb’s average September minimum is 11.2 degrees.
It was cooler inland, with the temperature dipping to 9.8 degrees at Albion Park about 5.20am on Wednesday. By 8.30am, it was already 24.4 degrees.
Damaging winds to hit parts of Illawarra, South Coast
A severe weather alert has been issued for damaging wind gusts in parts of the Illawarra and South Coast, ahead of the approaching cold front.
The Bureau of Meteorology has warned damaging winds averaging 55 to 65km/h, with peak gusts in excess of 90 km/h, are possible in the southern and central ranges of NSW, and adjacent areas, on Wednesday.
On Wednesday morning, the warning covers higher parts of the Illawarra forecast areas, including Bowral, and not coastal areas.
Conditions are expected to gradually ease on Wednesday evening
Strong winds on coastal waters
A strong wind warning is current for the Illawarra and Batemans coasts on Wednesday, with a gale warning on the Eden coast.
The strong wind warning will remain in place for the Illawarra and Eden coasts on Thursday.