Friday, June 22, 2012

The Low Blow

When storms are approaching, most sensible people take cover, however, some less stable individuals grab their camera's and head out into the maelstrom.

Living in Newcastle we are fairly lucky with the weather,  we have a fairly temperate climate with hot summers and mild winters, all in all it is a pretty nice place to live, no cyclones, no hurricanes, no tornadoes, no ice storms, we don't even get snow!

This isn't to say that Newcastle isn't totally immune from extreme weather events and recently  we had our brush with our most unpredictable climatic visitor ... the East Coast Low (ECL). Now ECL's seem to feature on the Australian east coast around the start winter when warmer waters in the Tasman Sea (prior to this years event the sea surface temperature was around 21°) form eddy's off the coast and mix with a cold front moving through southern Australia. Although an ECL can form any time of the year, in my opinion, they seem to occur between April and late June.(more info on ECL's  can be found at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology )  

Our latest ECL occurred on the 5 - 6 June, when a low deepened off Victoria and then moved up Australian east coast bringing with it 7 mtr swell, wind speeds of 94 kp/h and 20 mm of rain. In terms of severity this storm was only a minor weather event and quickly blew itself out over two days. Which kind of makes  this latest ECL a baby when compared to the 2007 'Pasha' Storm, where Newcastle had a 14 mtr swell, wind speeds of 124 kp/h, over 200 mm of rain and caused the grounding of the 76,000 tonne bulk carrier the Pasha Bulker, or the 1974 'Sygna' Storm which had wind speeds of 165kp/h recorded at Nobbys Head! 

Since I was holidays, I like a lot of other hardy fools, braved the howling wind and driving rain to head down to Newcastle to capture what was unfolding along the coastline.

Although the conditions were nowhere near the intensity of the '07 'Pasha' storm, the conditions were spectacular, especially around the southern breakwall to Newcastle Harbour, where waves continually pounded over the walkway, quite a sight. Another rare event that was occurring  were surfers were taking advantage of perfect sets that were entering the harbour on the lee side of the breakwall and were making the most of this unique opportunity! Unfortunately  even getting as close as you could to the pounding surf the camera could not capture the awesome beauty of 7 metre white crested waves that were being continually pushed up the coastline by the intense low pressure system.

So next time you are on the Australian east coast and you hear about an East Coast Low forming in the Tasman Sea, grab the camera, clear the memory card, charge the batteries, prepare the wet weather gear and head out Although you will be cold and wet, to get this close to nature at its unpredictable fury, is truly an unforgettable event.  

A word of warning though, if you are silly enough to venture out in these conditions be very mindful of the extremely hazardous conditions that you are exposed to, especially near the coast       

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