Worst of extreme fire threat yet to come

 

Firefighters are using today's favourable weather to prepare for a horror weekend, with looming extreme conditions prompting evacuation orders.

Saturday threatens to bring a dangerous combination of high temperatures and severe winds in fire-ravaged regions, placing further pressure on those at the front lines battling blazes.

And the fear is that conditions at the weekend will be worse than those seen on New Year's Eve.

On Tuesday, heat and winds fanned massive blazes that led to widespread destruction and the deaths of several people across New South Wales and Victoria. Conditions on Saturday are expected to be just as bad, if not worse.

The forecast for Saturday is truly terrifying, with extreme heat and strong winds expected in NSW and Victoria.
The forecast for Saturday is truly terrifying, with extreme heat and strong winds expected in NSW and Victoria.

The NSW Rural Fire Service is urging those from Bateman's Bay to the Victorian border to get out before the weekend.

"It is not safe. Do not be in this area on Saturday," a warning from the NSW Rural Fire Service reads.

 

Holiday-makers are fleeing the south coast as the Princes Highway reopens. Picture: LiveTraffic NSW
Holiday-makers are fleeing the south coast as the Princes Highway reopens. Picture: LiveTraffic NSW

The Princes Highway has reopened to give people a chance to escape to the north, but widespread road closures remain in the area.

Speeds have been lowered to 60km/h and there are warnings in place for the Canberra area due to reduced visibility from smoke creating dangers road conditions.

Smoke haze has also made a return to Sydney this morning.

Today, temperatures on the NSW South Coast will be relatively mild, in the mid to high 20s, with winds peaking at around 20km/h.

But it's expected to get as hot as 43 degrees on the weekend, with afternoon southerly winds up to 45km/h.

Similar conditions are forecast further south in Victoria from Saturday, with a top of 42 degrees expected in the East Gippsland region where the Australian Defence Force has been sent to help rescue locals and tourists trapped in the area.

Severe fire danger is forecast for East Gippsland on Saturday. Picture: CFA
Severe fire danger is forecast for East Gippsland on Saturday. Picture: CFA

Compounding the hot windy weather conditions is the dryness of the environment, which has helped fuel blazes around the country.

Rainfall in the East Gippsland region has been "well below average" for the past four years according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

 

Thousands of people crowded onto the beach at Mallacoota on Tuesday morning as fires threatened, before the winds changed direction in the afternoon.

An emergency warning issued for the area on Tuesday was downgraded to Watch and Act status late last night, but severe fire danger is forecast for Saturday.


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