Sydney and Canberra could be blanketed by a red haze today with the possibility of a dust storm sweeping across NSW.

Forecasters have told news.com.au the sky is already beginning to fill with a light dust in parts of Sydney, the Central Coast and Illawarra.

However the main band of thicker dust is still on the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range and it the dust is expected to gradually thicken over Sydney in the next few hours.

Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Anita Pyne told news.com.au the peak of the storm will hit Sydney early this afternoon - and there is already a "red haze" effect in Canberra.

 

A major dust storm lashed Sydney in 2009. Picture: Supplied
A major dust storm lashed Sydney in 2009. Picture: Supplied

 

There are fears a similar storm could hit the Harbour City this week.
There are fears a similar storm could hit the Harbour City this week.

 

She said it is still unkown how severe the storm in Sydney will be, but added she couldn't rule out a "major event" like the city's spectacular 2009 dust storm.

"It's going to be very windy and unpleasant later today, bu the system is going to be moving east into the ocean and clearing overnight," she said.

"There is already a red sky effect in Canberra this morning, with potential for showers today, which could potentially clear the air."

Forecasters are closely monitoring a system headed towards the state and associated high winds that could pick up masses of loose dust caused by drought conditions.

"The strong winds associated with this dry soil, with a lack of vegetation, are the perfect conditions to pick up the dust, lift it up into the atmosphere and bring it east with the winds," Ms Pyne said. "If it does happen it could have big impact. Dust storms can affect transport and even stop planes from landing."

 

An Airservices Australia spokesperson said Sydney airport has advanced procedures to allow for landing and taking off in low visibility conditions.

However, if conditions were to worsen there is potential for flight delays. Parts of the state have already experienced dust storms this week with Griffith in southwest NSW covered by dust on Tuesday.

It's unknown if the weather event will be as severe as the 2009 Sydney dust storm but warnings will be issued if that is the case.

"We really have to wait and see," Ms Pyne said.

Strong winds will cause severe fire danger on Thursday for the Greater Hunter region and increase the danger in the Sydney and Illawarra area

It comes after an awe-struck pub owner captured the moment an insane dust storm "blew away" her outback town on Tuesday.

Olivia Probyn, the manager of the White Cliffs Hotel, in the remote town of White Cliffs in northwest NSW, said one moment the tiny outback community was going about its day, and five minutes later it was cloaked in an eerie blanket of red dust - obscuring everything in sight.

Ms Probyn said the storm just came out of nowhere. Picture: Facebook/ Olivia Probyn
Ms Probyn said the storm just came out of nowhere. Picture: Facebook/ Olivia Probyn

She said it descended on the town unexpectedly yesterday, after locals spotted it brewing in the distance five minutes before it struck.

"It was incredible, everything turned red and it just blew the town away," she told news.com.au. "It was so thick that I couldn't even see the corner shop across the road. It was that bad."

Ms Probyn said it's the second major dust storm to lash the town this month after another similar occurrence on Melbourne Cup day.

"They don't hit often, but when they do they hit hard," she said. "It was spectacular and I didn't know what to do after.

"Everything was covered in dust and it was getting in through the cracks in the building because it's quite an old pub, the tiling was covered in thick mud so there was a big clean-up."

 

Ms Probyn uploaded dramatic footage of the storm onto Facebook and within hours it had racked up thousands of views from users who left comments expressing shock and gratitude they weren't caught in the wild storm.

"Yikes!!," wrote one commenter. "Thank goodness we didn't have to go through this that night we went to White Cliffs."

And, if you think this ridiculous weather is reserved for the outback, think again.

Sydney could find itself blanketed by a red haze later this week with the possibility of a dust storm sweeping across NSW.

Forecasters are closely monitoring a system headed towards the state and associated high winds that could pick up masses of loose dust caused by drought conditions.

 

The conditions are looking similar to those that led to the Sydney dust storm of September 2009, which blanketed Sydney as well as the rest of NSW.

There were more than 130 calls for help due to breathing difficulties, re-routed flights and smoke alarms ringing across the city as the wild storm hit nine years ago.

It was so bad, that it inspired Oscar-winning Blade Runner 2049 cinematographer Roger Deakins' post-apocalyptic, dust-filled version of Las Vegas in the 2017 sci-fi blockbuster.

Bureau of Meteorology weather services manager Jane Golding told ABC the chances of a dust storm forming in Sydney this week were "pretty high".

 

A cold front which moved through South Australia yesterday, along with a low pressure trough over New South Wales, is responsible for the current storm threat.

However, whether a storm forms in Sydney depends on the strength of the winds.

It comes just two weeks after drought-hit western NSW farmers had to contend with a horrendous dust storm rolling across the region.

Walls of dust descended on November 8 ahead of thunderstorms which brought between five and 15mm of rain, providing some relief for graziers but well short of drought-breaking falls.

 

- with AAP


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