Bl­iz­zard of Oz 3.0 hits hard

Alpine Observer - - Front Page - By JAMIE KRONBORG and VANESSA BURGESS

THE spark of a North East idea to make the September 2223 ver­nal equinox the for­mal date for the start of the south­ern spring might gain mo­men­tum after a rapid cold front on Sun­day brought ‘Bl­iz­zard of Oz ver­sion 3.0’ to Vic­to­ria’s alpine heights.

Mount Hotham’s nat­u­ral snow depth is likely to ex­ceed two me­tres this morn­ing – ahead of an­other cold front this af­ter­noon and again next week.

Hotham pun­dit Bill Barker said the snow­stakes were read­ing an av­er­age of only 26 cen­time­tres of snow­fall at 5am yes­ter­day when he was ex­pect­ing dou­ble the dump after the overnight storm.

But he reck­oned “the snow was so dry and the wind so strong that the stakes are not catch­ing it and it has been blown lower into the val­ley”.

“It will be epic out there to­day,” he posted.

The tem­per­a­ture gauge at Hotham was read­ing -7.0 Cel­sius just be­fore sun-up and the top for the day was fore­cast to be just two de­grees closer to zero.

Min­ima for the rest of the week are pre­dicted to range from -7 to -4 (to­mor­row) be­fore slid­ing back to -7 on Satur­day.

Max­ima for the week won’t re­turn to pos­i­tive ter­ri­tory un­til Sun­day.

The fore­cast for Falls Creek is much the same and be­com­ing only marginally warmer to­wards the end of the week.

VicRoads closed the Great Alpine Road be­tween Har­ri­etville and Hotham in both direc­tions at 2.50pm on Mon­day and ex­pected when the Times Ob­server went to press to keep it closed for most of yes­ter­day.

It had also closed the Omeo High­way be­tween Omeo and Mitta Mitta be­cause of se­vere cold weather and poor vis­i­bil­ity and that route, too, was likely to re­main closed yes­ter­day.

Mt Hotham Ski­ing Com­pany me­dia man­ager Karl Gray said on Mon­day that ‘Bl­iz­zard of Oz 3.0’ was one of the big­gest September storms he could re­mem­ber.

“We had 12-15cm fall through­out the morn­ing on Mon­day but it re­ally started dump­ing at lunchtime,” he said.

“We’d been out tak­ing photos in the morn­ing and we went back around an hour later and all our tracks had dis­ap­peared.”

Mr Gray said the snow was fall­ing in the right di­rec­tion and had quickly filled up any bare spots cre­ated by last week’s warmer weather.

Bureau of Me­te­o­rol­ogy se­nior fore­caster Richard Car­line said the ex­cep­tional snow stemmed from a “very cold snap” rushing north­wards from the Antarc­tic penin­sula, over the top of a low pres­sure sys­tem, in the 24 hours to 8.30am yes­ter­day

Snow was fore­cast at very low al­ti­tudes yes­ter­day morn­ing and there was a sprin­kling in the Buck­land Gap be­low Beech­worth.

Mr Car­line said it was “highly un­usual” for the cold to persist for so long past the of­fi­cial start of the south­ern spring.

Emer­gency Man­age­ment Vic­to­ria on Sun­day evening is­sued an avalanche warn­ing for back coun­try alpine ar­eas.

It warned peo­ple to stay within alpine re­sort man­aged ar­eas where avalanche haz­ards were mit­i­gated.

Bl­iz­zard con­di­tions are pre­dicted to con­tinue un­til late this week and driv­ers are en­cour­aged to check road con­di­tions and clo­sures at www.traf­fic.vicroads.vic. or call 131 170.

PHOTO: Karl Gray

WIZARD WEATHER: Hotham’s Han­nah Trig­ger was out on the slopes on Sun­day as snow­storm billed as ‘Bl­iz­zard of Oz ver­sion 3.0’ be­gan to cover the moun­tains.

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