Heatwave across Queensland and NSW: what you need to know and how to prepare for 40C temperatures

By Kathy McLeish and Patrick Williams

Parts of southern Queensland and northern New South Wales are in for a scorcher, with the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) predicting severe-to-extreme heatwave conditions from Friday

With temperatures expected to crack 40 degrees Celsius in some spots, we check with the BOM and other relevant authorities to find out exactly you need to know ahead of the heat.

How do you define a heatwave?

It is not just one day of hot weather.

It takes three or more days of high maximum and minimum temperatures that are unusual for the location for BOM to declare a heatwave.

It is calculated using the forecast high and low temperatures over the next three days, comparing this to actual temperatures over the previous 30 days, and then comparing these same three days to the normal temperatures expected for a particular location.

Heatwaves end when the mercury falls to more normal levels.

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How can BOM track heatwaves?

BOM launched its heatwave service

The service was aimed at giving communities, government, public health, emergency services and industry enough warning to plan ahead and prepare for the heat.

How deadly can heatwaves be?

According to BOM, in the past 200 years, severe and extreme heatwaves have taken more lives than any other natural hazard in Australia.

For example, 173 people died in the 2009 Victorian bushfires, but 374 people lost their lives in the heatwave that preceded it, according to BOM.

Queensland Health says it is important that your body temperature stays between 36.1C and 37.8C — anything above this may cause heat-related illness.

Who is at risk during a heatwave?

Pretty much everyone, according to Queensland Health

  • The elderly — especially those who live alone
  • Babies and very young children — as they produce more body heat, sweat less and their body temperature can rise more rapidly
  • Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers
  • People who suffer from a pre-existing medical condition such as diabetes, kidney disease or mental illness
  • People who take certain medications — such as allergy medicines (antihistamines), blood pressure and heart medications (beta-blockers), fluid tablets (diuretics) and anti- depressant or anti-psychotic medications. If you take medication, consult with your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
  • People with an alcohol or other drug problem
  • People with mobility problems or disability who may not be able to identify or communicate their discomfort or thirst
  • People who are physically active — such as manual workers and people who play sport

Remember, the best way to reduce the risk of heat-related illness is to drink plenty of water and keep your body as cool as possible.

What is heatwave intensity?

There are three levels, beginning with lowntensity

It is the most common event and the majority of people are able to cope with this level of heat.

Severe heatwaves

Extreme heatwaves

What does it mean for our firefighters?

Nothing good. Hot weather only means heightened fire conditions.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services is warning residents in affected areas to be vigilant, report bushfires to triple-0, and prepare their homes now.

The Queensland Rural Fire Service has a handy guide for preparing bushfire survival plans

Will power suppliers be able to cope?

Here’s hoping.

Queensland’s Energex say sufficient preparations have been made to cope with the expected additional load

Daily peak demand usually occurs between 4pm and 8pm, when people get home for the day and switch on appliances simultaneously, while network peak demand occurs only a few times a year, usually in cases of extreme temperatures.

The record summer peak stands at 4,760 MW for the summer of 2009/2010.

What can you do before and after a heatwave?

ABC Emergency has plenty of tips:

  • Stay hydrated:
  • Dress light:
  • Check on family, friends, neighbours:
  • If you or those close to you are suffering heat stress, call for help immediately:
  • Stay out of the sun:
  • Get your home ready:
  • Seek air-conditioning:
  • Look after your pets:
  • Do not leave children or pets in parked vehicles:

This post originally appeared on ABC News.


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