Strong northwesterly winds were behind a severe weather warning and a total fire ban on Tuesday, also prompting a health warning.
«The ACT is experiencing dry conditions and strong winds, and the levels of dust particles are rising across the city reducing the air quality,» the health directorate said in a statement.
«Anyone can experience symptoms from dust including the most common symptoms; burning eyes, throat and skin irritation. Some people with pre-existing breathing-related problems, such as asthma and chronic lung diseases, may experience breathing difficulties.»
The dust that blanketed the city for much of the afternoon persisted into the evening despite winds dying down.
A spokesman for the Bureau of Meteorology said the dust, from dry areas in the Riverina and South Australia, was tracking north on Tuesday evening and dissipating, with no more dust expected in this weather event. On Wednesday morning, the damaging northwesterly winds would become lighter and more variable, with a high of 24 degrees, before temperatures returned to the 30s from Friday.
A plane landing at Canberra Airport on a flight from Brisbane on Tuesday afternoon had to abort its first landing attempt because of the wind.
Virgin Australia flight VA1218 circled the airport for 20 minutes before landing successfully on the second attempt, Sarah Curby, who was on board at the time, told The Canberra Times.
«We went to land, almost hit the ground and had to fly back up as it was unsafe to land. We did a circle in the air, and then came back down at a different angle,» she said.
«The captain said there was a wind swirl when we tried to land the first time. He was very calm and said we were going to land again from a different direction.»
The State Emergency Service said there had been 128 calls for help, most of which were for roof damage, trees and branches on roads and fallen power lines.
Downed power lines closed streets in Acton, Melba and Pearce, with emergency services on scene.
Evoenergy warned people to stay clear of fallen or low powerlines, as well as objects such as fences or trees that are in contact with them, as they could conduct electricity, and to report damage to electricity or gas infrastructure to 13 10 93 for electricity and 13 19 09 for gas.
Thredbo recorded an average wind of 94km/h gusting to 124km/h at 9.30am. In the ACT, Mount Ginini at Namadgi recorded a wind gust of 89 km/h at 3:20pm, and the airport recorded a top gust of 82km/h.
The government said people should follow these precautions in the dust storm:
- leave the area for a cleaner environment;
- stay indoors, with windows and doors closed;
- stay in air-conditioning and switch the air-conditioner to «recycle» or «recirculate» to reduce the amount of dust entering the building;
- visit a local air-conditioned building such as a library, community centre or shopping centre;
- avoid vigorous exercise, especially if you have a heart or lung condition;
- if you have a heart or lung condition, follow your treatment plan prescribed by your doctor; and
- if it is safe to do so, check on elderly neighbours or other people who you think might need extra help.
Finbar O’Mallon is a reporter for The Canberra Times
Emily Barton is a producer at The Canberra Times.
Kirsten Lawson is news director at The Canberra Times