Queensland heatwave smashes BOM November records, Stradbroke Island keeps burning
If you thought summer had started early in Queensland this year, you were right, with temperatures hitting high 30s and into the 40s last month sending records tumbling.
The heatwave that has been gripping the state for the last several days smashed monthly records, with one city — Cairns — sweating through its hottest-ever November day, twice.
The mercury hit a scorching 42 degrees Celsius in Cairns two days in a row.
Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) climatologist Tamika Tihema said it was “significant” to see the record broken in such a way.
“It has never gotten above 42C … but to get two days in a row at that temperature was quite extraordinary,” she said.
The BOM said last month was the fourth-warmest November they had recorded on average.
The heatwave caused trouble for firefighters around the state who were battling more than 100 bushfires.
Among the other towns to break their November temperature highs was Townsville, which reached 41.7C, beating its previous record of 41C, which was set in 1971.
A large fire on North Stradbroke Island blankets the beaches in smoke. (ABC News: Allyson Horn)
Innisfail also recorded 41C, compared to 38.8C in November 1992.
Mount Stuart logged the highest temperature across the state for November, reaching 45.2C, on November 26.
Proserpine, Cooktown and Mackay also topped their highest recorded temperatures.
While extreme heat was bearing down on the east, the rainfall across the area was well-below average.
Ms Tihema said it was not the typical conditions they were used to at that time of year.
“You tend to see a lot of onshore flow, so you do see eastern Australia pick up some reasonable rainfall totals, but we saw the opposite this month,” she said.
She said that while Queensland did get showers, they were well below what was expected this time of year.
Stradbroke Island continues to burn
A drop in wind and temperature overnight has helped firefighters battle the bushfire, which has burned through thousands of hectares on the popular tourist island.
Allyson Horn: Water bombers are so essential for fighting this blaze on North Stradbroke Island – much of the fire is in inaccessible country.
Replacement crews have arrived on North Stradbroke Island to relieve firefighters who have battled to keep a large blaze within containment lines.
BOM senior forecaster Michelle Berry said there were overnight storms to the west of Mackay, where fires are burning, and more rain was coming.
“We are expecting some rainfall for a number of our fire sites today so hopefully that goes some way to alleviating some of the fires that we have for the state at the moment,” she said.
“We could even see some of that activity getting down to the south east tonight over that Stradbroke Island area where there’s a fire continuing as well.”
Cyclone Owen could bring rain
Ms Berry said Tropical Cyclone Owen, which is about 1,200 kilometres off the coast of Cairns, is expected to weaken from its category one status over the next 24 hours but could still bring much-needed rain.
“It should weaken into a low or trough and it may move west towards the east tropical and central coast later this week,” she said.
“We may see some heavy falls developing about that east tropical coast in particular through Friday and into the weekend.
“It could be quite heavy if it does move far enough west towards the coast — but if it remains further offshore we won’t get that moisture.”
Deepwater residents may get to return home
Meanwhile, a slight change in conditions has seen the fire danger in central and eastern Queensland ease.
Two watch and act alerts remain current for Captain Creek and Lowmead south west of Agnes Water, but the overall threat has dropped in many areas ravaged by fire over the last 10 days.
Fire authorities will assess the possibility of allowing Baffle Creek and Deepwater residents, who have been evacuated from their homes for more than a week, to return home.
Gladstone Mayor Matt Burnett said the Local Disaster Management Group would discuss the issue at a meeting on Tuesday morning.
“After the aerial inspection last night and then the inspection this morning, again we’re hoping for safe re-entry for residents and you can’t put residents back into an area where fires can continually break out because of really strong winds that are moving embers and creating really strong fires,” he said.
More firefighters from Canberra are also headed to Queensland later this week to help with the efforts.