Brisbane awakes from haze as dust settles
CONAL HANNASeptember 23, 2009
Dust clouds that caused havoc around South-East Queensland today are beginning to clear.
Sam Terry from The Weather Company said at 4.30pm visibility at Brisbane Airport had returned to 1800m, after dropping as low as 200m at midday. A normal reading is in the vicinity of 25,000m.
"Brisbane is just on the western tip of this band, so most of it has actually moved across off shore. I wouldn't think it would last much longer. You'll see it really abate over the next hour," Mr Terry said.
Brisbane's CBD under a layer of dust.
"By tomorrow morning, you won't even remember it - apart from cars being dusty."
Today, construction workers at hundreds of South-East Queensland building sites walked off the job while Eagle Farm race track was forced to cancel its scheduled meeting.
Pharmacies were inundated with requests for face masks, although medical experts have played down health concerns related to the dust storm.
At its fiercest, the storm reportedly dumped 16,000 tonnes of dirt every hour over South-East Queensland.
Whipped up by strong westerly winds over central Australia, the dust prompted traffic authorities to erect warning signs on highways and major roads into the CBD amid fears of nose-to-tail accidents.
While Brisbane Airport was monitoring the situation closely, no flights had to be cancelled or rerouted due to the storm here.
However, because of the severity of the dust storm that hit Sydney this morning, no flights left Brisbane for the NSW capital until after 9am, creating a backlog that took much of the day to clear.
Dust poses little danger: expert
Brisbane respiratory medical expert Dr Simon Bowler this morning downplayed the potential effects on asthma sufferers.
The Mater Hospital respiratory physician said air-borne pollutants were more likely to cause respiratory problems for asthma sufferers than ground dust.
"By and large dust that's from the ground is relatively inert and for most people it's not a particular drama," Dr Bowler told ABC Radio.
"It's fairly uncommon to see a lot of respiratory problems with wind-blown dust. Paradoxically in Brisbane asthma tends to be a whole lot worse when the skies are clear, because that means there are particularly westerly winds blowing and asthma is much worse under those circumstances."
Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Tony Auden said this morning a red blanket had reduced visibility on the Darling Downs to 100 metres.
"This is one of the thickest dust storms I've seen for at least three or four years," he said.
He said the cloud blowing from the red centre yesterday had caused severe dust storms in Sydney, although the effects could be short-lived here.
"We should see conditions slowly improve into the afternoon and the dust settle out as the front moves through the south-east."
Dust clouds whipped up by strong winds blanketed Sydney this morning, casting a strange red pall over the city.
"The reason for the dust is we had some really strong winds in the inland areas of NSW and in South Australia for a sustained period yesterday," said Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Jane Golding.
"That's lifted a whole lot of dust off the ground because it's quite dry out there, many of those areas are still drought affected."
The lifted dust was carried by the winds into Sydney.
"I've not seen anything like this before."
The reddish haze was expected to fade as the sun got higher in the sky, Ms Golding said, but it was not known what would happen to the dust.
"This is such an infrequent event ... it's hard to say when the dust will stop."
- with Marissa Calligeros, Christine Kellett and Arjun Ramachandran