Heatwave causing highway in NSW to melt
A MAJOR highway is melting and dozens of fires are burning as Australia's scorching summer heatwave worsens.
Parts of NSW's west had surpassed 45C by lunchtime on Thursday, including Bourke, Cobar and Smithville, while much of the Riverina climbed above 42C.
Almost everywhere else in the state has reported temperatures at least in the 30s - including Sydney's west, with Penrith, Richmond, Campbelltown and Camden all reaching 35C by 1pm.
The conditions are so extreme that the bitumen on the Oxley Highway near Wauchope, just west of Port Macquarie, began melting about midday.
Heat records have been falling but forecasters have warned the worst is yet to come.
New South Wales is likely to be particularly badly hit with the mercury climbing today and the peak of the blistering temperatures coming on Friday when parts of Sydney could touch 45C.
Rail commuters have been warned that tracks could buckle under the intense conditions
In the worst-affected areas, temperature are 10 to 14 degrees higher than average for this time of year.
Meanwhile Melbourne, which so far has managed to escape the worst of the heat, is about to get a blast of scorching highs with the temperature shooting up to 40C in the suburbs.
A cool change is scheduled to sweep through the south east from Friday. But the mercury won't dip for long. From early next week the heat will start rising once more, first bringing scorching conditions to Perth and then to the southeast once more.
Yesterday, the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said the previous four days had been in Australia's top 10 warmest days on record.
Nine areas of NSW broke temperature records, including six records since observations began.
White Cliffs in the state's northwest recorded the highest temperature in NSW and an all-time high for the area with 48.2C just before 3.30pm.
In South Australia, Tarcoola surpassed 48C on Wednesday.
Extreme heatwave conditions, which are risk to even fit and healthy people, continue across central and eastern NSW and the north of Victoria including Canberra and western Sydney.
Sydney's CBD is looking at a high of 32C today and 34C on Friday. It's way hotter out west though with Penrith on 41C today and 45C on Friday.
Wagga Wagga could see 44C for the next two days with Ivanhoe, in the state's far west, surpassing 48C.
NSW Energy Minister Don Harwin said energy demands during the next few days will be met and residents shouldn't be worried about using airconditioners.
Very hot, dry and windy conditions were predicted to generate elevated fire dangers into Thursday. Total fire bans are in place for the central ranges, northwestern and southern slopes areas of NSW.
Canberra is facing yet another 40C-plus day on Thursday with the mercury getting as high as 41C and then 40C on Friday.
In Victoria, the Bureau has warned the sea breezes that have so far ensured Melbourne's CBD has been sheltered from the weather's worst excesses may not play ball on Thursday.
Highs of up to 37C in the CBD and 40C at Avalon are higher than initially forecast, due to reduced afternoon cloud cover and fresh westerly winds limiting the effectiveness of the sea breeze.
Bendigo will see 38C and Mildura will get as high as 45C as inland Victoria bakes.
In Adelaide, it will be a toasty 37C. Further north in Port Augusta expect a high of 47C.
COOL CHANGE, BUT BRIEF
Relief is coming, said Sky News Weather channel meteorologist Rob Sharpe - but it won't last long.
"On Friday, when the cool change sweeps across South Australia and Victoria, temperatures will drop markedly," he said.
Melbourne CBD will ease to a high of 28C and then just 23C on Saturday. That cool change will take until Saturday to reach across the Murray with Canberra turning a high of 40C on Friday to a mild in comparison 33C on Saturday.
Sydney's CBD should see 28C on Saturday and just 26C on Sunday.
"On Sunday, over in (Western Australia), that heat will only just be starting to ramp up in Perth and the inland areas of Australia," Mr Sharpe said.
"On Tuesday, that heat starts flooding straight back into the southeast."
Sure enough, Perth could reach 40C by Sunday and Adelaide could be close to 40C again by mid next week.
Melbourne should escape the worst but inland the 40s will again be a feature of next week in Victoria.
This time next Wednesday, western Sydney could be on 41C.
Expect temperatures of around 25C for the next few days in Hobart.
Brisbane continues its run of sunny days in the low-30s. Perth will see a mild 26C on Thursday before it begins creeping into the 30s and the 40s over the next few days.
Darwin is 34C and partly cloudy with the possibility of storms.