1983 Melbourne dust storm – countdown to catastrophe.

Victoria was in the grip of drought when Melbourne was smothered by a giant dust storm blown in from the mallee deserts during the afternoon of Tuesday 8 February 1983.

Earlier in the morning a strong, but dry, cold front began crossing Victoria, preceded by hot, gusty northerly winds.

The temperature in the city rose quickly as the north wind strengthened, and by 2:35 pm it had reached 43.2 degrees.

The 300 metre high dust cloud stretched over 500 km from Mildura to Melbourne and extended on a 150 km wide front.

It reached the city by 2.55 pm and the sky went black.

Winds of up to 140 km/h were reported at Point Lonsdale while at Mornington, gusts reached 100 km/h. In the city, winds reached 85 km/h.

The storm cut power, damaged houses, uprooted trees, disrupted train services and ripped boats from moorings.

The worst of the dust storm was over by 4 pm when the wind dropped as the cool change arrived. There was no rain and everything was covered in a layer of dust.

But more significantly, the exact weather pattern that caused the dust storm, with high temperatures and strong northwest winds followed by a strong southwest change, was repeated eight days later during the catastrophic Ash Wednesday bushfires.

Top Image: Australia Bureau of Meteorology/Photographer: Trevor Farrar

Time is 2.56 pm. Source: Museum Victoria.
Bourke Street mid-afternoon when the dust storm hit Melbourne.CREDIT:FAIRFAX ARCHIVES.
Dust storm entering Melbourne 8th February 1983 (source: Bureau of Meteorology)

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