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Adelaide suffers longest heatwave -

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Adelaide suffers longest heatwave

The World Today - Thursday, 13 March , 2008 12:42:00

Reporter: Nance Haxton

ELEANOR HALL: It's meant 11 straight days of temperatures above 35 degrees, but today Adelaide has
claimed the record for the longest heatwave in an Australian capital city.

The previous record was set in Perth which suffered through a ten day heatwave in 1988. But in
Adelaide there is no relief in sight - South Australia's weather bureau is predicting that the
sweltering temperatures will continue until at least next Wednesday.

And as Nance Haxton reports, medical experts and the country fire service are now increasingly
concerned about the effects of such a prolonged hot spell.

VOX POP 1: Today I'm just like walking like I'm drunk ...

NANCE HAXTON: Is it starting to get to you?

VOX POP 1: Oh it really is getting to me. I just put my head under the shower and try and think of
ice and cool things.

NANCE HAXTON: It's the kind of sizzling weather that would send some people jumping into the
nearest fountain, or at least sit nearby one while the water cools them down.

But with Adelaide's water restrictions firmly in place because of the drought, there's no water in
many of the public fountains, so people are going to their nearest shopping centres instead to take
comfort in the air conditioning.

VOX POP 2: When you come out it's even worse.

VOX POP 3: It's very hot, terrible.

NANCE HAXTON: How are you finding it?

VOX POP 3: Hard, really, because my job is connected with the car, you know, so I'm in and out, in
and out all the time. It's really ... hardly coping.

NANCE HAXTON: For a heatwave to be officially recorded the temperature must go beyond 35 degrees
celsius each day in succession.

Weather bureau duty forecaster Mika Peace says while Adelaide has experienced hot spells before,
they've never been of this intensity.

MIKA PEACE: At 10:28 this morning at Adelaide office here, the temperature got to 35.1 degrees.

NANCE HAXTON: What does this mean? This is officially the longest hot spell in Australia?

MIKA PEACE: That's true for any capital city, so it's the longest run of days in a row over 35
degrees for any capital city in Australia since records started.

NANCE HAXTON: How much longer could this hot spell go for?

MIKA PEACE: Well at the moment we're forecasting temperatures above 35 degrees until Wednesday next
week, so next Wednesday the forecast maximum is 31 degrees. So, so far this is our 11th day over 35
and with the days forecast ahead we're looking like getting 16 days in a row over 35 degrees here
in Adelaide.

NANCE HAXTON: So that cool change is a long way off yet.

MIKA PEACE: Still a few days to go.

NANCE HAXTON: Adelaide hospitals have treated more than 50 people since Saturday for heat-related
ailments including dehydration.

South Australia's acting chief medical officer Dr Paddy Phillips is concerned that the longer the
heatwave continues, people may become frustrated and risk getting heatstroke.

PADDY PHILLIPS: It's only through the length of period so it puts more people at risk, I guess, and
people are put off doing things and then decide to do things in the heat of the day, I guess that's
the possible risk.

But we're trying to advise people to not do that, not do strenuous exercise in the middle of the
day and do it in the cool of the morning or the evening, and drink plenty of fluids.

NANCE HAXTON: But it's not only people who are suffering from the prolonged heatwave. The state's
horticulture sector is now showing the strain; garden industry sales have plummeted, apples are
turning brown just before harvest and wine grapes are withering on the vine.

The Country Fire Service is on high alert today and tomorrow as searing winds are predicted to
combine with climbing temperatures.

Deputy chief officer Andrew Lawson says they are now entering uncharted territory.

ANDREW LAWSON: Yes it certainly has both from a number of days that have been hot but also from a
concern that we have about how dry the soil is.

NANCE HAXTON: And so what sort of contingency plans is the Country Fire Service having to make?

ANDREW LAWSON: We're putting all available crews on stand-by, we're having daily weather
conferences. Hot dry and windy conditions are the highest risk of bushfire. All we need is
ignition, some sort of ignition source on the day and fires on those days become uncontrollable
very, very quickly.

ELEANOR HALL: The deputy chief officer of South Australia's Country Fire Service Andrew Lawson
speaking to Nance Haxton.