Blizzard of Oz 3.0 hits hard
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. gov.au or call 131 170.
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.