Melbourne’s hottest day in five years has suddenly become almost chilly as a fierce cold front crashed through the city.
The CBD recorded a maximum temperature of 42.6C at 3.41pm and was still at 42C by 4pm.
Police said five children had to be rescued from locked cars.
Then, in the space of 30 minutes, the mercury plunged by 20 degrees to 22C — below average for this time of year.
Bendigo was at 44.5C at 4pm and Mildura 46.4C as the summer heatwave reached it peak.
Gusts of up to 80km/h have whipped across the bay as the front marched through the city and across the rest of the state.
A Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) graph has shown the moment the front barrelled its way into Melbourne. The yellow areas denote the calmer winds with temperatures in the 40s, the dark blue areas the damaging winds as the cold front makes its presence felt.
The BOM has issued a severe weather warning for Melbourne and eastern Victoria warning of gusts in excess of 90 to 100km/h up to two hours after the front comes through.
The dramatic change in temperature has capped off a day of searing record breaking temperatures in four states. Canberra sweltered to almost 38C and western Sydney hit 37C and could do for several days in a row.
Melbourne 3:30pm: 42 °C
Melbourne 4:10pm: 26 °C
What this is completely normal ok pic.twitter.com/Mg7d7JYgyT— Dr Belinda Barnet (@manjusrii)
After #Avalon had their hottest day in 5 years reaching nearly 46C, the squally #coolchange dropped temperatures 20 degrees within half an hour. Gusts in Port Phillip Bay have been observed as high as 80km/h at Fawkner Beacon. It’s coming for you in #Melbourne!— Tristan Meyers (@TristanJMeyers)
In Tasmania, hundreds of people have been evacuated from towns and rural areas around Hobart as bushfires ripped through the state. The city reached 34C and Campania almost 40C.
The skies above Hobart turned an ominous red hue as south east Australia sweltered through record breaking “killer” conditions.
Former Greens leader Christine Milne tweeted an image of the fire: “Not the summer sky you want in Hobart. Sadly with global warming it is becoming more commonplace.”
“Not scary at all …” said Rachel from Hobart who posted an image of the skies over the city on Instagram.
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A post shared by ☕️ Rachel ? (@bored_and_gorgeous) on
Satellite pic clearly showing the smoke plume over Hobart and surrounds from the fire in the southwest.— Bureau of Meteorology, Tasmania (@BOM_Tas)
Current mood in Hobart town… pic.twitter.com/upnS4MIXEi— Brent Costelloe (@brentcostelloe)
— Craig Allen (@Craigallenabc)
Not the summer sky you want in Hobart. Sadly with global warming it is becoming more commonplace. pic.twitter.com/4GBVHJgzNa— Christine Milne (@ChristineMilne)
— Georgie Burgess (@GeorgieJBurgess)
The uncontrolled bushfire at Gell River, north west of Maydena, Tyenna and Mt Field National Park, is posing a high risk to several townships in Tasmania’s south. Satellite images clearly show the smoke plume descending on Hobart.
Authorities have evacuated 600 people from the national park on Friday and have urged people in the area to enact their bushfire plans to evacuate or prepare to defend their properties.
The bushfire, burning about 20km in wilderness to the north of the communities, may put homes at high risk in the next two to three hours, the state fire service says.
Derwent Valley councillor and Mt Field’s Waterfalls cafe owner Rachel Power told The Mercury smoke had engulfed the entire sky within half an hour which sent a clear message that the area was under threat from the blaze.
“The whole Park has appears emptied. All the campers look to have left and the tracks have been cleared,” she said.
Meteorologists warned of a scorching day, and they weren’t wrong.
“In some locations we’re forecasting an all-time January record of 45C in Shepparton and 46C in Swan Hill,” the BOM’s Dr Adam Morgan.
“We should see a top of 42C in Melbourne which is a maximum we see only every three to five years and the hottest it’s been since January 2016.
“A pool of heat has been building over central and northwest Australia for the best part of a week or two now.
“As a high builds in the Tasman Sea and we have a front approaching from the west that heat gets funnelled down in gusty northerly winds towards the south,” he said.
Authorities have urged people to schedule activities for the coolest part of the day, have plenty of water on hand and check on elderly neighbours.
Sky News Weather channel meteorologist Tom Saunders said the desert heat has already been record-breaking.
“Alice Springs hit 45.6C on Thursday, the second time in last two weeks. These are the highest temperatures recorded in Alice Springs for any month.”
Victoria, Tasmania, the ACT and southern NSW could all see the mercury rise 10-16 degrees above average until late afternoon.
ABRUPT END TO HEATWAVE
On Saturday, it will all be a very different story with Melbourne struggling to reach even 21C with a shower or two as the cold front progresses east.
Steve Warrington, Country Fire Authority chief officer, described the wind change as a “killer”, and urged campers and holiday-makers to prepare for the dangerous conditions.
“Our advice would be don’t get on the road at that particular time and even consider delaying your return home from holidays or being on the road at all at that particular time,” he said.
Thunderstorms are expected in parts of central and eastern Victoria in the late afternoon, with the possibility of dry lightning strikes posing a risk of fire.
“If a fire starts it’s going to be uncontrollable, it’s going to be fast moving. So this is a timely reminder for people if you have not done your preparation and planning in relation to fire,” Victorian Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said.
TASMANIA AND NSW
In Tasmania, a total fire ban was declared for the eastern half of the state, including Launceston, the central highlands, southern midlands and Hobart and surrounding areas.
The capital is set to hit 36C.
Again a cool change will see the mercury plummet with a high of just 22C on Saturday.
Sydney’s CBD will only see a typical summer high of 29C on Friday, but as you edge inland that will soar — reaching 39C in Penrith in the city’s west and 40C in Maitland near Newcastle. Inland NSW could see temperatures pass the 40C mark today, with Broken Hill and Ivanhoe expected to crack 45C.
If you are in or travelling through an area of elevated fire danger, know what the fire danger ratings mean. Have a five minute conversation with your loved ones about what you would do if a fire was to occur. How fireproof is your plan? https://t.co/VRIS5Zcmfb #nswrfs— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS)
On Saturday, Sydney’s CBD will warm up to 34C with the west on 38C, but things will cool a touch on Sunday and Monday.
NSW Health Environmental Health director Dr Richard Broome pleaded with people across the state to limit their time outside during the hottest period of the day and keep an eye on those most vulnerable to the heat.
Brisbane should see a high of 31C on a sunny Friday, a pattern repeated for much of next week. Adelaide reached 41C on Thursday but should get to a mild, in comparison, 31C on Friday and then 25C on Saturday.