South Australia Faces a Dust Cloud

South Australia has seen severe dust storms in the past, such as this one in 2007. Picture courtesy of the ABC


An impeding dust storm brought on by dryer-than-usual conditions in South Australia today has seen local authorities issue a public health warning for people that suffer from respiratory illnesses to stay indoors and be prepared.

Chief Medical Officer and Chief Public Health Officer for South Australia Professor Paddy Phillips issued a public health warning at a press conference in Adelaide yesterday warning the public to be alert.

“Dust can be a risk factor for aggravating asthma and respiratory illnesses so we are advising that people stay indoors,” Prof Phillips said.

“Avoid exercise in the dust, stay indoors and activate your personal treatment plan.

“It is always good to be aware and to follow the weather and make sure you keep up to date where the front is and, if it is imminent in your area, stay indoors and activate your personal treatment plan.

“Once the rain comes through and washes the dust out of the air that will make things a lot better. We are all looking forward to that rain especially those in the dryer areas of the state. I would hope that we would not see anyone badly affected if they follow this advice.”

University of Adelaide student Matt Smith, 22, said he will be leaving class early to make sure he gets home to Prospect in enough time to avoid the storm. “I suffer from asthma and want to be home by 3pm so that I have no risk of an attack. I will also make sure I shut all of my windows and doors so that no particles can come into the house,” he said.

Bureau of Meteorology Forecaster Matt Collopy said the dust cloud comes from the very dry conditions South Australia has been experiencing this winter.

“Well it really is a combination of the pastoral issues, where it has been a really dry autumn and the start of winter across South Australia especially across the northern and pastoral parts of the state,” Mr Collopy said.

“So those dry conditions combined with the really fast moving and vigorous front expected today are likely to lead to very windy northerly conditions, so strong and dusty northerly winds and the potential for some raised dust ahead of that front. As it moves across the Eyre Peninsula and extends towards the central and eastern parts of South Australia late afternoon and evening.

“We are expecting damaging winds that is 50 to 70 kilometers an hours with potential for gusts up around 80 to 100 kilometers per hour and there is the likelihood of a severe weather warning being issued this afternoon and that will be primarily damaging winds associated with this front.

“It looks like it will be worse across the Eyre Peninsula and Western parts of South Australia, the slightly dryer areas will be affected worse than the Adelaide area. The good news is this front will bring some rain and showers with it stretching across South Australia.”

Mr Collopy said this was an unusual set of events for this time of year.

“It is more of a summer time event for these types of conditions. If you look at July it has been about the driest July across South Australia since 1999. I think we are around about 60% less than our average rainfall for this time of year,” he said.

Prof Phillips thinks there is unlikely to be a repeat of the November 2016 thunderstorm asthma in Melbourne that killed nine people.

“Luckily this is unlikely to be anything like thunderstorm asthma. Thunderstorm asthma is something that Victoria has seen but South Australia, thank goodness hasn’t seen and we are unlikely to. It has a particular relationship with rye grass, this stuff is coming from a very dry area, where there isn’t much rye grass and we just don’t have the meteorology or the botanical grasses or the geography to cause thunderstorm asthma,” Mr Phillips said.

Keeping indoors and having the right health plan in place is the best advice for any respiratory or cardiac sufferers today.


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