erocious weather has lashed a 600-mile stretch of coastline in eastern Australia prompting emergency warnings from the authorities as snow fell in subtropical Queensland.
Residents near the town of Stanthorpe, 135 miles south-west of Brisbane, had a wintry surprise with the first significant snowfall in the state of Queensland since 2015. Forecasters said it was a “rare” event, which came just three months after Australia sweated through its hottest summer on record.
In Sydney, ferries between the seaside suburb of Manly and Circular Quay in the city centre were cancelled due to wild seas.
“Big waves and big fun” is how one passenger described the helter-skelter ride before the popular service was suspended. To the west, up to 5cm of snow blanketed parts of the Blue Mountains, prompting road closures and commuters planning to drive to work in Sydney were advised not to bother because of the treacherous conditions. Ambulance crews have responded to several car accidents, but no serious injuries have been reported.
The snow and ice has caused delays to trains in the region, but despite strong winds only a small number of flights have been cancelled at Sydney Airport.
The Bureau of Meteorology issued a severe weather warning for much of the New South Wales (NSW) coast, and winds of 80mph were recorded at Ulladulla, the strongest gusts in the area in a decade. At Jervis Bay, a popular tourist destination 125 miles south of Sydney, three yachts were dumped on the beach by the powerful swell. Authorities urged surfers who planned to brave the massive waves to go out in pairs.
To many Australians the icy blast was inconvenient and potentially hazardous, but elsewhere the freezing conditions were a novelty.
Camels at a sanctuary near the NSW city of Armidale weren’t quite sure what to make of the unexpected snowfall.
“Some of the camels hadn’t seen it (before) and some of the younger animals hadn’t seen it … they just couldn’t decide where to put their feet, they thought it was really strange,” said sanctuary owner Naomi Hooper.
Australia is a land used to nature’s extremes. In her famous poem ‘My Country’ the Australian author Dorothea Mackellar wrote: “I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains… of droughts and flooding rains… her beauty and her terror.”
There are warnings that climate change in Australia, the world’s driest inhabited continent, will unleash more intense bushfires, droughts and storms.