HUNDREDS are queuing at petrol stations and roads are clogged across the New South Wales South Coast, with residents and tourists in the area told to leave now as the state prepares for worsening bushfire conditions in the coming days.
In the early hours of Thursday morning, large crowds were seen lining up in Batemans Bay ready to leave as the area quickly runs out of vital supplies like food and water amid the unprecedented crisis. However, power and mobile phone coverage has slowly started to return for the locals who have chosen to stay.
It comes after the NSW Rural Fire Service announced a “Tourist Leave Zone” for those in the South Coast bushfire zone with the threat expected to intensify on Saturday.
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Tourist Leave Zone – South Coast Bush Fires
Dangerous conditions for holiday makers on the South Coast of NSW this weekend
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) January 1, 2020
The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast extreme weather conditions for much of Southern NSW on Saturday, which includes the general area from Batemans Bay through to the Victorian border.
Those who are holidaying in those areas – or who are planning to travel to the area – are advised it is not safe.
State Emergency Operations Controller, Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys, is urging visitors to Southern NSW to make a plan to leave the area as soon as possible.
“The NSW Police Force is working closely with Transport for NSW to allow for safe travel by road,” Deputy Commissioner Worboys said.
“While there are significant road closures, police and our partners are maintaining controlled access to various arterial roads to allow people to leave impacted areas as soon as possible.
“Our Traffic and Highway Patrol Command and local police are providing a high-visibility presence too, so listen to their instructions or directions – particularly in relation to potential hazards and diversions.”
NSW Rural Fire Service has advised that while the weather is more favourable today, there is still a Very High fire danger and with more than 100 fires still burning across the state, things can change quickly.
Deputy Commissioner Worboys added that your usual travel route may not be safe or accessible – or it could be closed at short notice, so it’s important to stay updated on conditions and road closures.
“There are still a number of traffic diversions in place, but there are many ways out of these areas, it may just be that you have travel out a different way to make your way home,” Deputy Commissioner Worboys said.
“We are anticipating heavy traffic out of these areas, so I want to remind all road users to expect delays – but be patient, remain calm, and drive to the conditions – we want everyone to make it out safely.”
The Transport Management Centre has provided the following information about traffic movement and road closures, which is current as at 11.30am:
Motorists on the South Coast are able to travel north on the Princes Highway from Batemans Bay.
The Princes Highway as also recently reopened between Tilba Tilba and Brogo, as well as between Falls Creek and Milton.
A reduced speed limit of 60km/h is in place, and the highway may be closed for short periods to allow emergency vehicles through.
Motorists are advised to take extreme care, follow the directions of emergency services and traffic crews, and drive with headlights switched on due to smoke in the area.
Motorists should also allow plenty of extra travel time and be patient as northbound traffic on the Princes Highway is very heavy approaching Wandandian and is queued back almost to Termeil.
The Princes Highway remains closed in the following locations:
• Between Batemans Bay and Moruya
• Between Narrabarba and Cann River (Victoria)
– From Narrabarba, you can travel west on Imlay Road to the Monaro Highway to head north.
The Snowy Mountains Highway is open between Bega and Adaminaby so anyone on the Far South Coast is also able to travel to Canberra or Sydney via the Snowy Mountains Highway to Cooma, the Monaro Highway to Canberra and the Hume Highway.
Many other roads remain closed including:
South of Nowra:
• Jerrawangala to Tomerong – Turpentine Road is closed
• Wandandian – Wandean Road is closed between the Princes Highway and Bollerang Road
• Nowra Hill to Charleyong – Braidwood Road/Nerriga Road is closed
• Braidwood to Nelligen – the Kings Highway is closed
• Braidwood to Moruya – Araluen Road is closed
• Braidwood to Cooma – Cooma Road is closed
In and around the Snowy Mountains:
• Tumut to Adaminaby – the Snowy Mountains Highway is closed
• Batlow to Tumbarumba – Batlow Road is closed
• Jindabyne to Khancoban – Alpine Way is closed
A number of smaller local roads are also closed in the South Coast and Snowy Mountains areas, and many roads crossing the New South Wales-Victorian border are also closed, including the Monaro Highway between Rockton and Cann River (Victoria).
Up to the minute information about road closures is available at livetraffic.com.