Bushfire smoke dips city air quality as hail, heavy rain to batter Sydney


Windsor Downs resident Gloria told 2GB heavy rain and “golf-ball” sized hail has been pouring down at her house this morning.

“I raced out and I am soaking wet. I love the rain. I have been paranoid about the bushfires in the nature reserve, but thank god for this rain.”

The storms are forecase to affect Sydney over the next several hours.

It comes as Sydney residents wake to a blanket of smoke covering the city and “hazardous” air quality, while the state mourns three American men who died when their aircraft crashed north-east of Cooma on Thursday.

Most of the city, the northwest slopes and the Southern Tablelands are facing “hazardous” air quality, while “poor” conditions are expected in the Hunter region, the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment index reads.

Weatherzone forecaster Felix Levesque said a low-pressure trough moved across the state’s west on Thursday evening, dragging dust and smoke particles across Sydney. Some parts of the city may have experienced brown rain which occurs when dust and smoke particles mix with precipitation in the lower atmosphere.

Sydney residents reported a thick layer of dust coating cars.

Mr Levesque said conditions were easing across the fire grounds, with showers and thunderstorms expected across parts of the state on Friday.

“It’s a better situation, it’s not too windy, some southeasterly winds will bring more moisture and there will be cooler conditions across the state,” he said.

Sydney is likely to see showers throughout the morning, with the temperature to hit 28 degrees. The northeast of the state, including the Northern Tablelands, the Hunter and Mid-North Coast, are likely to see severe thunderstorms throughout the day.

Smoke blankets the city on Friday morning.

Smoke blankets the city on Friday morning.Credit:Nick Moir

Flags across the state will fly at half-mast on Friday in commemoration of the three American air crew members who died when their waterbomber crashed on a private property in southern NSW on Thursday.

RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told ABC News that while his knowledge of the incident was “limited”, he could the men were “highly experienced professionals”.

He said the men had come to Australia again to assist with the bushfire season, but “tragically this year, they won’t be going home”.

Police said three men aged 42, 43 and 45 are thought to have been on the aircraft, but they are yet to be formally identified.

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“Police are liaising with US authorities to ensure all next of kin have been notified of the men’s deaths.”

Temperatures are expected to increase over the weekend and early next week, but it’s unlikely to result in “severe”, “extreme” or “catastrophic” fire dangers ratings.

“But we can’t afford to be complacent because we still have to get through February and the balance of this fire season,” Commissioner Fitzsimmons warned.

“Some days are harder than others and yesterday was horrible, absolutely horrible,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told Nine News.

“Our volunteers and workers are on the ground sacrificing their own health and safety for others. Yesterday was just a shocking example of that.”

A car covered in smoke in Bardwell Park, in southern Sydney.

A car covered in smoke in Bardwell Park, in southern Sydney.Credit:Twitter user @SydneyLens

Investigators are expected to head to the site and will begin piecing together the events that lead to the crash.

The deaths of the firefighters bring the state death toll for this bushfire season to 24 people.

On Thursday, six fires across the state were upgraded to “emergency warning” level, but the southerly change overnight reduced all fires to “advice” on Friday morning.

On Friday, six regions have “high” fire danger ratings including the Illawarra/Shoalhaven, Central Ranges, Monaro Alpine and the ACT, while other parts of NSW have “low-moderate” fire risk conditions.

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