Monday, 11 May 2009

Australia Fires, Feb 2009

I flew out of Melbourne on the afternoon that the Black Saturday bushfires raged. I had spent most of the day at the airport after deciding that downtown was just too hot to be lugging around suitcase, computer and brolly(!) Even in the terminal I could feel the heat radiating in through the windows and I'm sure the air-conditioning was struggling. The departure gates swayed as the wind moaned around the structure. Extreme heat - 47 degrees, which I'd not experienced even in my Arizona years - and gusty wind, the perfect ingredients for disaster.

Our take-off was late because these conditions were interfering with the navigation equipment. I guess it was the same for everyone but finally we climbed out of the airport and through a layer of smog, I reckon to about 10,000 feet. This did not seem worrisome because a few days earlier I had bounced down through the same smog from previous, less disastrous bushfires. It was not until breakfast news next morning in Tasmania that the full impact began to appear.

We all know the rest of the story. My own personal postscript is of returning to Victoria to tour the Great Ocean Road and the Grampians and back via Bendigo. I was aiming to spend my last night between there and Melbourne but, seeing fires on the horizon, I opted to get as close as possible to the airport at the Formule 1. I also did not care to get anywhere the source of the smoke, as I might have done a week previously.

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