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Why Sydney Escaped The Storm


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Why Sydney escaped the storm

Sydney was saved from a battering this morning by the same chilly air that dumped snow over Bathurst last night.

The predicted gale force winds, generated by a severe low depression over the Tasman Sea, swept across the city right on cue - but almost no one noticed because they were unexpectedly pushed high into the sky.

"It missed us by a fraction," said the weather bureau's relieved Sydney regional director, Barry Hanstrum. The fierce winds were forced "offshore, and also overhead".

At 5am, most Sydney residents would have been sound asleep, unaware that winds of 90 to 100 kilometres an hour were howling just 1000 metres up.

The coast was saved from potentially the damaging gale by cold air that dropped snow overnight across parts of the Blue Mountains and towns to the west, briefly blocking the Great Western Highway.

Forced over Sydney by westerly winds, the unusually cold air hugged the ground, sending overnight temperatures in the city tumbling to just 8 degrees.

Acting as a wedge, the cold air shielded the city, pushing yesterday's much warmer gale force winds, roaring in from the sea, over the top.

Mr Hanstrum described the pattern as an inversion, the same effect blamed for trapping pollution low in the atmosphere, producing Sydney's familiar murky brown haze.

The westerly winds that brought the cold air also acted as a barrier, keeping the storm further to the east.

"We were very lucky," said Mr Hanstrum, adding that the inversion happened too quickly to be taken into account by the bureau's predictions.

However, it was very different story out to sea this morning, where there was no protective inversion.

"We have had storm force winds out to sea all night. It's causing havoc," said Mr Hanstrum.

One ship off Newcastle reported being hammered by winds of almost 100kmh about 6am.

Waves pounded the coast. At Port Kembla waves averaged six metres, with some reaching 10 metres. Along Sydney's beaches, said Mr Hanstrum, the average waves was five metres this morning, while the biggest peaked at 10 metres.

"You don't get waves of that height without a lot of wind."

He estimated that the storm was still raging from about 100 kilometres off the coast to "nearly all the way to New Zealand."

It is now heading east, where it is expected to batter Norfolk Island tonight.

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