Geelong haze

Sunset New Years Day, 1st Jan 2020 Picture: Rebecca Hosking 202719_01

By Natalee Kerr and Luke Voogt

Geelong experienced some of the worst air quality in Australia this week due to smoke from bushfires.

The city recorded a “hazardous” air quality rating for several hours overnight on Monday with conditions hitting their worst at 9pm, according to the World Air Quality Index.

The rating came from measurements of PM10s, which are particles small enough to get into the throat and lungs, according to the Environment Protection Authority (EPA).

Patrolled beaches from Queenscliff to Aireys Inlet faced temporary closures on Tuesday following advice from the EPA due to the smoky conditions.

“LSV advises avoiding beaches and inland waterways and stay indoors today to limit your exposure,” Life Saving Victoria said.

Geelong council closed Kardinia Aquatic Centre, with Eastern Beach also shutting down.

Lifeguards were not patrolling the area due to poor air quality and visibility, according to council.

“(Closures) maintain the safety of our lifeguards who are required to spend significant periods of time outside,” council said.

Visibility in the region reduced to its lowest of 1.1km on Monday night opposed to the 70km the previous day, according to EPA.

VicRoads urged drivers to exercise caution with hazy conditions.

“Using your hazard lights and making sure you’re clear of the roadway will help avoid collisions, which are common during bushfires,” they said.

VicRoads recommended drivers use low-beam headlights throughout today, keep windows closed and increase the space between themselves and the vehicle in front.

Last week, Barwon Health’s respiratory medicine director James Malone warned locals to take caution if the haze returned.

“The effects of smoke exposure to a person depend on their age, pre-existing medical conditions and the length of time they are exposed,” he said.

“For healthy adults, effects may include irritation of the eyes, runny nose, sore throat and coughing.”

He urged anyone with acute respiratory symptoms, such as wheezing, chest tightness and difficulty breathing, to phone 000.

Bushfires are still burning across Victoria, with 18 fires on Tuesday classified as “out of control” according to Vic Emergency.

Conditions in Geelong are set to improve Wednesday, with smoke clearing during the afternoon, according to the Bureau of Metrology (BOM).

BOM predicts temperatures to drop for the rest of the week, with the cool change set to bring thunderstorms and as much as 5mm of rain.

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