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Dust storms ‘on way back to Sydney’

Strong winds have picked up dust on the border region between NSW and South Australia, near Broken Hill, with visibility reduced to less than 1,000m.

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The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) said the dust storm was expected to pass through Orange and Bathurst late on Friday, hit the Blue Mountains by midnight and reach the coast on Saturday morning.

A severe weather warning is in place for the Hunter Valley, where wind gusts are forecast to reach up to 90km/h.

BoM regional director Barry Hanstrum said it was still too early to predict where the dust will end up but it was not likely to be as bad as the storm that coated Sydney on Wednesday.

“Wednesday morning’s dust storm was an extraordinary event,” Mr Hanstrum told reporters in Sydney.

Dust blowing in ‘thick and fast’

“The winds were seeing today aren’t as strong as we saw on Tuesday and the area that’s covered by these winds isn’t as large.

“While there is a reasonable likelihood of dust in the Sydney area tomorrow, it is unlikely to be as bad as what we saw on Wednesday.”

The dust storms earlier this week transformed Broken Hill’s skyline from red to black within minutes, before hitting the coast on Wednesday morning, so Sydney residents woke to an eerie glow.

A spokesman from the Broken Hill Visitor Information Centre said conditions in the far-western NSW town on Friday were as bad as those in Sydney on Wednesday.

“The dust has blown in thick and fast again,” the spokesman said.

“It started coming in at about 10am this morning, a day earlier than was forecast, and I’d say it’s as bad now as it was in Sydney, from the photos I saw.”

Roads warning over poor visibility

He said local police were advising people not to drive on certain roads because of poor visibility, but otherwise the town was functioning as normal.

The dust storms could even boost tourism for Broken Hill, after footage of the earlier dust storms has gone around the world.

“We’ve had more positive comments than negative ones,” he said.

NSW Health said no health alerts have been issued to prepare for the latest dust storm, although people should take precautions and remain vigilant as the situation could change.

The Department of Environment and Climate Change website’s air quality index will be updated hourly on Saturday.

“Make sure that the environment is safe to do outdoor exercise and outdoor activities,” NSW Health director of the environmental health branch Dr Wayne Smith said.

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