Windsor Downs resident Gloria told 2GB heavy rain and “golf-ball” sized hail was pouring down at her house on Friday morning. “I raced out and I am soaking wet. I love the rain. I have been paranoid about the bushfires in the nature reserve, but thank god for this rain.”
The storms have cut power to around 8,000 customers in Sydney and the Central Coast, Ausgrid reported.
The storms came as residents woke to a blanket of smoke covering the city and “hazardous” air quality.
Most of the city, the northwest slopes and the Southern Tablelands had a “hazardous” air quality rating on Friday morning, while “poor” air conditions were reported for the Hunter region.
Weatherzone forecaster Felix Levesque said a low-pressure trough moved across the state’s west on Thursday evening, dragging dust and smoke particles across Sydney.
Some parts of the city may have experienced brown rain, which occurs when dust and smoke particles mix with precipitation in the lower atmosphere, with residents reporting a thick layer of dust coating their cars.
Mr Levesque said conditions were easing across the fire grounds on Friday with the temperature forecast to reach 28 degrees.“It’s a better situation, it’s not too windy, some southeasterly winds will bring more moisture and there will be cooler conditions across the state”.
Flags across the state will fly at half-mast on Friday in commemoration of three American air crew members who died when their water bomber crashed on a private property in southern NSW on Thursday.
RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told ABC News that while his knowledge of the incident was “limited”, the men were “highly experienced professionals”.
He said the men had come to Australia to assist with the bushfire season, but “tragically this year, they won’t be going home”.
Police said three men aged 42, 43 and 45 are thought to have been on the aircraft, but they are yet to be formally identified.
“Police are liaising with US authorities to ensure all next of kin have been notified of the men’s deaths.”
Temperatures are expected to increase over the weekend and early next week, but it’s unlikely to result in “severe”, “extreme” or “catastrophic” fire dangers ratings.
“But we can’t afford to be complacent because we still have to get through February and the balance of this fire season,” Commissioner Fitzsimmons warned.
“Some days are harder than others and yesterday was horrible, absolutely horrible,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told Nine News.
“Our volunteers and workers are on the ground sacrificing their own health and safety for others. Yesterday was just a shocking example of that.”
Investigators are expected to head to the site and begin piecing together the events that lead to the crash.
The deaths of the firefighters bring the state death toll for this bushfire season to 24 people.
On Thursday, six fires across the state were upgraded to “emergency warning” level, but the southerly change overnight reduced all fires to “advice” on Friday morning.
Laura is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald.