The photos attached to this post are taken just south of Penrith NSW and around Warragamba Dam.
During December 2019 and January 2020 vast areas of the Blue Mountains west of Sydney and areas around Silverdale and Warragamba Dam were scorched by bushfires and between October 2019 and February 2020 plumes of smoke covered large areas of Sydney for days at a time.
The images attached to this post were taken during January 2020 showing one of the out of control bushfires burning close to the township of Warragamba and the evening sunset image was taken just south of Penrith NSW.
According to Australian Geographic (March / April 2020 edition, Page 45) the fires across eastern Australia burnt approximately 16 million hectares, with 5,900 buildings destroyed, some 250,000 people required to evacuate (including my parents and my wife and I at Batemans Bay on December 31 2019), some 140 aircraft used during the crises, over 3,000 homes lost, large numbers of animals killed (Exact toll will never be known) and 33 fatalities. The full economic losses are still being worked out.
West of Sydney, more than 80% of the World Heritage listed Greater Blue Mountains area was impacted. The bushfire crises came to an end during the early part of February 2020 as a result of a major rain event and a reversal of the weather systems in play.
At the time the images were taken in January 2020, my my wife and I were watching this fire burn from a safe distance and occasionally watching aircraft make low level water bombing.
These images are taken between December 30 2019 and January 1 2020 during our visit to the South Coast - Batemans Bay. We were certainly aware of the Currowan Bushfire west of Batemans Bay which had been burning for a number of weeks leading up to this catastrophic event.
My wife and I were only here due to new years eve and a planned BBQ with parents. However things quickly turned dangerous upon our arrival 30/12/2019. During the afternoon, thick choking smoke enveloped the entire south coast but towards evening this smoke lifted and at sunset, my wife and I were shocked to discover that the northern part of Batemans Bay was underneath a Pyro - cumulonimbus cloud that was capable of generating lightning strikes. This did not occur although a similar cloud formation to the south which could be seen in the distance did generate lightning strikes.
More alarming though was the fact that warm embers were dropping from this pyro cumulonimbus cloud and we knew this was dangerous. I picked up one ember which was warm.
Throughout the night the glow of the fire to the west was visible and early morning the wind increased from the north west. By daybreak we learnt that the bushfire had raced out of the state forests and that Mogo was heavily impacted by flames. Fanned by the hot dry north west winds, the fire front tore through Mogo obliterating most of the town although the Mogo Zoo was saved. Mogo is just 12 km south of Batemans Bay.
More alarming was the fire front that raced towards Catalina and after 9 am the street where my parents live was evacuated. A number of fire brigade units and Police swarmed the area ordering us and residents to drop everything and evacuate immediately to Catalina Beach - The Safe Zone.
Another fire front tore through Malua Bay, another suburb of Batemans Bay to the south.
In a few minutes with flames imminent, we fled to Catalina Beached and watched a bushfire catastrophe unfold. I have never seen anything like this other than on TV news.
During this time a large spot fire broke out adjacent to the beach which required the use of a Heli crane to tackle. It was later tackled using no less than 3 helicopters.
More alarming were the fact that houses were on fire within the street where my parents live. With thousands of residents and holiday makers taking refuge on the beach we were watching a full scale aerial bombardment with the use of a DC10, a Boeing 737 jet and a third possibly a BAE146 Jet, flying low to the ground one after another.
The southerly change blasted through turned the air into choking ash, smoke and dust and day turned to night. This lasted approximately 20 minutes and the sky later turned orange.
At around 1 pm, my wife and I returned to Country Club Drive where my parents live and were shocked that the fire came to within 30 metres of my parents home, a resident on the opposite side of the road had flames burning at his fenceline, a house was on fire close by and a number of homes were burnt to the ground. We later counted some 22 houses destroyed within 200 metres of my parents home.
My wife and I were required to put out smoke coming from a spot fire in a tree in my parents rear yard which shows how close the fire came.
Infrastructure was destroyed, power knocked out, we had no idea what was going on. A drive by of the area the next day identified significant losses over town with the fire still burning. The images of Batemans Bay on fire on this day being new years eve / new years day is one of many fire disasters that hit eastern Australia during this time with the South Coast heavily impacted.
The Blue Mountains bush fires were very impressive so I time-lapsed them! So how do they form? As the plumes rise beyond the freezing layer consequently forming cloud. These clouds are known as pyrocumulus.