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Dusty gift to the east

Thursday, 24th September, 2009

By Stefan Delatovic

A dust storm is nothing new for Broken Hill, but this one made it all the way to Sydney.

Tuesday's dust storm - which blotted out the sun over Broken Hill for an hour and kept the skies red well into the evening - hit Sydney and Brisbane yesterday and may make it all the way to New Zealand.

Winds of up to 90 kilometres an hour have swept much of the State in the last few days, stripping topsoil and carrying it vast distances. While Tuesday's storm was the worst since the 1960s, Broken Hill locals will be all-too-familiar with orange skies, strong winds and a kitchen clean-up that takes a week. For the people of Sydney it's not the same. When the city awoke to red skies - a present from their friends out west - many didn't know what to do. NSW Health urged them to stay inside and avoid exercise. Many wore masks on their way to work and fears that the apocalypse had arrived were voiced in newspapers and on social websites. But an amateur video which captured the conditions in Broken Hill provided some perspective. Uploaded to the YouTube video-sharing website by a user known as "Rayneegirl", the video showed Broken Hill's skies darkening from orange to black in a matter of seconds. Titled "Broken Hill comes over pitch black during a dust storm", the video proliferated on the social website Facebook before popping up on television news and news websites such as Yahoo7 and Crikey. Yesterday the video had already been viewed over 8,000 times and its popularity had propelled it onto Youtube's front page. For much of the country the storm was a novelty. Broken Hill faced a storm almost as intense on September 22 last year - 12 months ago to the day from Tuesday's event. While that storm didn't block the sun, it brought a downpour of rain and dark red skies. Vehicles were overturned, trees were uprooted and visibility was reduced to almost nothing. But yesterday's relatively calm conditions imply that the worst is over for now, according to local weatherman Phil Mew. "I'd say it's moderated. With the winds we've had today I don't see anything like that coming back any time soon," he said. "There's another system coming through on Friday or Saturday but I don't think it'll be anywhere near as bad."

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