HOSPITALS and emergency services are on standby, sporting events have been cancelled and power generators are gearing for a huge spike in demand as Queensland braces for a potentially deadly heatwave.
Queenslanders are being urged to take extraordinary measures to deal with the record scorcher as temperatures soar up to 13C above the already-hot February average.
While people around the state are being told to stay inside and crank up the airconditioning, energy providers have assured the State Government that Queensland has enough power to meet demand, and even to send some south to help NSW fend off a meltdown.
Energy Minister Mark Bailey said even after sending electricity to NSW there would be 1000 megawatts of spare capacity in Queensland, making blackouts unlikely.
"We have confidence that the Queensland power system … can cope with the challenges of the next three to four days," he said.
"We will have a lot of reserve ready for contingencies.
"Of course, things can always happen. We are ready."
The heat will drive tens of thousands of people to the beach but authorities warn big swells have made it dangerous.
Surf Life Saving Queensland state operations support co-ordinator Jason Argent warned swimmers to stay between the flags, due to strong currents and a powerful swell pounding the coastline. Health experts warn Queenslanders not to be complacent.
The unusual February weekend will result in temperatures more than 10C above average around the southeast, central and western parts of the state.
Records are set to tumble when severe heatwave conditions hit areas from Gladstone down to the border and out to Goondiwindi.
The Queensland Ambulance Service and QHealth have advised residents to keep hydrated with at least two to three litres of fluids a day.
Three students were hospitalised and five treated for heat-related incidents in Brisbane yesterday.
QAS executive manager Lachlan Parker urged residents to stay indoors, in the comfort of the airconditioning.
"It's not the day to mow the lawn," he said.
"We are expecting this weekend to be busy.
"Heat-related illnesses have the potential to be life-threatening and may include heat stroke."
QHealth chief health officer Dr Jeanette Young said the heat could affect even the young and fit.
"Everyone is at risk," she said. "It's important to not go out and do any strenuous exercise in the hottest part of the day."
Temperatures are expected to soar even higher tomorrow, with Brisbane forecast to sweat through a top of 39C, 43C in Goondiwindi and 47C in Birdsville.
NO SWEAT OUT WEST
IT may feel like "hell on Earth" but many outback residents are unfazed by warnings of up to 10C above average temperatures.
"This is not hot,'' said Cloncurry cattle king Andy Daniels at his homestead on a three-and-a-half million acre empire.
"We don't even break into a sweat out here until it starts to crank into the mid-40s.''
Yesterday's 38C heat was far from the highest temperature recorded in "The Curry", which posted Australia's hottest day on record when the mercury soared to 53.1C in 1882.
Taylah Armstrong cooled off after cleaning a water trough on the 160,000-acre Dunluce cattle station, near Hughenden, 400km west of Townsville.
"You get used to working under a hot sun all day,'' the 19-year-old jillaroo said.
"But it's nice to have a dunk to freshen up a bit.''
The scorched earth of five years of drought has turned into a lush oasis of grass, water and life after flooding rains across outback north Queensland.
It has also unleashed a plague of locusts.
"These bloody grasshoppers are everywhere," Ms Armstrong said.
RSPCA PLEA TO LOOK AFTER PETS
THE RSPCA has again pleaded for animal lovers to keep an eye on their pets during this heatwave.
This week, the RSPCA responded to 28 hot animal in car jobs, 62 jobs with regards to animals with little or no shade and shelter and 110 with insufficient water. RSPCA Queensland spokesman Michael Beatty said it would take minutes for an animal to die in a hot, locked car. "If it's 30 degrees outside, the temperature inside can rise to over 40 degrees in less than five minutes."
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