Heavy Rains Bring Welcome Relief to Parts of Southeastern Australia Ravaged by Fires

Heavy showers and thunderstorms have flared up across parched bush fire zones in southeastern Australia, and in some cases, these storms are delivering the most rain these areas have seen in months. Due to a shift away from hot, dry conditions across southeastern Australia and toward more typical summer thunderstorm activity, storms have formed during the past two days from Victoria northward into Queensland.

The forecast calls for more rains through the weekend, particularly across eastern New South Wales and Queensland. However, the hit-or-miss nature of the thunderstorms means some fire zones could miss out on the wet weather entirely.

Some spots picked up more than two inches of rain Wednesday into Thursday, while other areas saw just a few drops as thunderstorms rumbled past.

The storms have brought with them severe weather including large hail, damaging winds as well as dust storms, given the drought conditions. They could also cause landslides and debris flows to form in recently burned areas.

According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, widespread rainfall amounts of 0.4 inches to one inch have fallen across a large area from Melbourne northeast to Gladstone, Queensland. Localized amounts of two inches or more were associated with some slow-moving thunderstorms, including in the Melbourne metropolitan area and areas just north of Brisbane. Large hail and frequent cloud-to-ground lightning have also been occurring with these storms.

The rain is courtesy of a trough of low pressure that has set up across inland parts of eastern Australia, drawing warm, humid air to the north-northwest and leading to daily rounds of showers and thunderstorms. This feature is not expected to dissipate during the next few days, raising the prospect that some places could receive several inches of rain.

Notably, the heaviest rains are largely bypassing parts of hard-hit Victoria and South Australia, which could make those areas more vulnerable to additional bush fires if more dangerous fire weather occurs during the rest of the summer season.

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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Andrew Freedman