Warning for damaging winds as cool change heads for the Illawarra

A rugged-up Michelle Maquiling enjoys the sun at Shellharbour on Thursday morning. Picture: Sylvia Liber
A rugged-up Michelle Maquiling enjoys the sun at Shellharbour on Thursday morning. Picture: Sylvia Liber

The sun might be shining across the Illawarra but wintry, westerly winds are making for chilly conditions on Thursday – and there’s more windy weather on the way. 

The Bureau of Meteorology has issued a severe weather warning for the Illawarra and parts of the South Coast as a series of passing cold fronts drive vigorous westerly winds across southeastern Australia.

The bureau has warned damaging westerlies averaging more than 65km/h, with peak gusts in excess of 100km/h, could develop about the higher ground of the Illawarra, Central Tablelands, Southern Tablelands, Snowy Mountains and South Coast districts on Friday morning, extending to the coast during the day.

Winds over the Snowy Mountains above 1900 metres are expected to average above 90km/h, with peak gusts in excess of 125km/h, from Thursday evening. Blizzard conditions are expected about the Snowy Mountains above 1500 metres during this period.

The National Parks Service of NSW has urged people to consider postponing back country travel until conditions improve.

Temperatures are forecast to climb to 18 degrees in Wollongong and Albion Park on Thursday.

The mercury was nudging 18 degrees at both locations at 2pm. However, the wind chill meant the temperature felt more like 10.7 degrees at Albion Park and 11.4 degrees on the coast at Bellambi.

A wind gust of 61km/h was recorded at Albion Park at 7.45am on Thursday, while a 57km/h gust was felt in Bellambi a short time later.

The windy conditions are expected to persist until early next week, with temperatures set to plummet thanks to the arrival of the cold fronts.

A maximum temperature of just 13 degrees is forecast in Wollongong and Albion Park on Sunday, after overnight lows of nine and seven degrees, respectively. 

Icy blast prompts winter safety warning

The blast of cold weather has prompted the state’s emergency chiefs to urge the community to stay safe this winter. 

“Winter is the worst time of the year for fires in the home and we want everyone this season to take simple steps to avoid losing their home or tragically their life,” Minister for Emergency Services Troy Grant said.  

“Motorists should stay clear of driving in floodwaters, be mindful of black ice and take care behind the wheel when faced with heavy rain, sleet or snow.

“As the mercury continues to drop its important households take care when using heaters and electric blankets, never get complacent when preparing food in the kitchen or microwave and ensure ovens and range hoods are clean of grease.”

Last winter, firefighters attended more than 1100 house fires across the state and the NSW SES received 3846 calls for assistance.

On average, 21 people die from house fires each year in NSW.

Each year, Fire and Rescue NSW attends about 4500 residential fires across the state; about 30 per cent of which occur during winter months.

In 2018 to date, there have been about 1400 house fires and five fatalities.

About 45 per cent of all home fires start in the kitchen, while a further eight per cent originate in the sleeping area.