Dust storm hits Sydney, NSW Government issues air quality warning

| 22.11,18. 01:58 PM |

Dust storm hits Sydney, NSW Government issues air quality warning

Dry soil in drought-stricken parts of NSW has been picked up by a cold
?front — so how did it get all the way to Sydney

A dust storm that has swept across drought-stricken parts of NSW has shrouded Sydney's landmarks and sparked an air quality warning from the State Government.

The dust storm, which stretches about 500 kilometres, yesterday reduced visibility to just metres in far western NSW including at Darling River and Broken Hill.

By lunchtime the impact of the dust was obvious across iconic locations like the Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge and Bondi Beach, while conditions in western Sydney also deteriorated.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) forecaster Jordan Notara said it was unclear how severe the situation would become.

"We may see some red afternoon skies," he said.

The dust storm is impacting several coastal areas including Sydney, the Illawarra, Hunter Valley and Central Coast.

Mr Notara said the conditions had "the same hallmarks" of a major dust storm in Sydney in 2009.

Drought conditions have dried soil, which makes it easier for the wind to pick up dust.

Sydney Airport said the weather conditions had forced it to operate with a single runway.

"International and Domestic terminals are experiencing some flight delays," the airport said in a tweet.

Passengers were told to contact their airlines for more information.

Air quality drops

Air quality deteriorated to a level considered "hazardous", according to data from the Office of Environment and Heritage.

That level was reached in north Parramatta, the Central Coast and upper Hunter region. Air quality was close to reaching hazardous levels in Sydney's eastern suburbs.

The Health Department warned those with respiratory and cardiovascular conditions such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema to limit their time outside and not exercise.

"Some of the dust particles in the dust storm will be very small and can get deep into your lungs and that's why we're concerned about people's health," Director of Environmental Health Dr Richard Broome said.

"If possible, stay in air-conditioned premises where filtration systems can help to reduce dust particles in the air."

The Department said children and older adults should also take care.

"Dust may aggravate existing heart and lung conditions and cause symptoms like eye irritation and cough," Dr Broome said.

"Symptoms can occur for several days after dust is inhaled, so people with the chronic conditions need to be vigilant with their treatment programs."

The conditions are being caused by a low pressure trough and cold front that moved through South Australia this week.

That system is now over NSW and forecasters said the dust was travelling with the cold front through the state.

Mr Notara said winds had picked up dry soil in drought-ravaged parts of NSW.

Deja vu for Sydneysiders

In September 2009, Sydney woke to an eerie red dawn.

A huge dust storm had settled over the city and much of NSW after being carried east by gale-force winds days prior.

Residents reported red dust covering their floors while firefighters called the event "extraordinary" with more than 500 call-outs.

The SES received more than 150 calls for help, mostly from people with breathing difficulties.

The dust even set off smoke alarms because it simulated smoke.

The 2009 event also caused flights to be re-routed to Brisbane and Melbourne.


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