Moree's 'unprecedented' heatwave | Photos

Moree's 'unprecedented' heatwave


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The Bureau of Meteorology describes the heatwave as "unprecedented". Photo: Ben Adams

The Bureau of Meteorology describes the heatwave as "unprecedented". Photo: Ben Adams

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It's 5.40am in Moree, northern NSW, as Ben Adams wakes up and prepares for work.

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It's 5.40am in Moree, northern NSW, as Ben Adams wakes up and prepares for work.

Before walking out the door, he grabs a water bottle out of the freezer.

It's going to be another long, hot day.

As a tractor mechanic, he's used to hot conditions working inside a shed or out in the sun fixing machinery in the field.

But the past six weeks have been something else. Moree is in the midst of a record-breaking heatwave that simply won't go away.

In an extraordinary run, their last day below 35 degrees was Boxing Day last year, easily breaking the previous record of 17 consecutive days above 35 degrees, set in 1981.

With his work involving up to 10 hours outside in the sun, Mr Adams estimates he drinks about 5 litres of water during the day.

"It makes the job hard when tractors break down in the field – it's more draining as you're right in the heat," he says.

"I leave my work ute going on a lot of jobs, just so that I can get back into the car if I get too hot and sit in the air con for a bit."

Mr Adams says he's just one of those affected by the sweltering temperatures.

"The heat has really put the pinch on farmers," he says. "A lot of my farmer friends irrigating cotton say they've been really struggling with the heat."

Moree, which is not immune to a summer hot streak, has never seen anything like this.

Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Mohammed Nabi describes the heat as "unprecedented".

"It smashes the previous record for Moree. Unfortunately for that part of the world, there's no relief in sight as that northern centre part of the state just holds onto that hot air mass."

The state record for the most consecutive days above 35 degrees is 50 days, according to the Bureau. That record was set in 2012-13 in Bourke.

While it's too early to accurately predict the 50-day record being broken, the next seven days are all forecast to be 40 degrees or above.

Thirsty work: Moree bakes through another 40-plus degree day. Photo: Ben Adams

Thirsty work: Moree bakes through another 40-plus degree day. Photo: Ben Adams

"We're getting close," Mr Nabi says.

Moree Plains Shire Council mayor Katrina Humphries said everyone is "a bit over it now".

"The trees are sick of it, the animals are sick of it, the people are sick of it.

"We're always hot this time of year but it's just been relentless. The worst part is there's been no rain while it's gone on. More than anything it's the morale impact. It's getting very tiring."

Many businesses are struggling as tourists stay away and locals stay home, Ms Humphries says.

Brock Kelly is the bar manager at local pub the Amaroo Tavern. "It's been pretty quiet. The heat's keeping people away a bit I think," he says. "Of an afternoon we get busy, with all the boys coming in off the tractors. But our meals have dropped down, because people aren't as hungry I guess.

"The caravan park is normally full at this time of year but they're pretty quiet. We've seen a major drop in our bistro, it's nowhere near as full as it normally is," Mr Kelly says.

To survive the heat, bar staff have slightly modified their work schedule. "We're standing in the cool rooms multiple times a day just to cool off for a couple of minutes."

While most businesses are quiet as people try to keep cool at home, Ms Humphries says one is thriving.

"The pool is doing well, they've had record breaking numbers!"


After scorching temperatures during the day, night brings little relief.

The last day the temperature in Moree dropped below 35 degrees was Boxing Day last year. Photo: Ben Adams

The last day the temperature in Moree dropped below 35 degrees was Boxing Day last year. Photo: Ben Adams

"In my bedroom last night at 9.30 it was still 35 degrees," Ms Humphries says.

"The air conditioning keeps us sane but it's labouring. We're all rolling our eyes and saying, 'What's our power bill going to be like? It's going to be through the roof'."

As the state record of consecutive days above 35 degrees creeps closer, the record-equalling 50th day is due to fall on February 14 if the hot streak continues.

"Oh Valentine's Day, won't that be lovely! I hope we don't make it but I think we might."

Ms Humphries says despite flagging morale, "we just do the best we can to look after each other".

There is one upside to the heatwave, according to Mr Adams.

Tasty treat: ice cream melts fast in this heat in Moree. Photo: Sophie Harris, Moree Champion

Tasty treat: ice cream melts fast in this heat in Moree. Photo: Sophie Harris, Moree Champion

"It's putting Moree on the map! It's always a big thing when Moree makes it to the Sydney news. But we're on the map for all the wrong reasons really."

And despite the relentless heat, Ms Humphries sees the positives.

"We're lucky we do have air conditioning, plenty of water and no bushfires. There's people in worse situations – we keep it in perspective," she says.

"Nobody's bombing us, we don't have bushfires and we do have water. But there will be massive cheers when we do get a bit of rain. It will be a big celebration."

This story first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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