21 February, 2019 – Australia
- Southeast Queensland is being urged to batten down hatches as Oma closes in
- There are more than a dozen possible paths the devastating system could take
- Major cities Brisbane and the Gold Coast are potentially right in the firing line
- Expected to bring wild weather, 130km/h winds and 500mm of rain in on day
Southeast Queensland is being urged to batten down the hatches as the highly-unpredictable Cyclone Oma powers towards the coast.
‘There still are a wide range of scenarios at this point,’ the Bureau of Meteorology’s Bruce Gunn said.
Authorities are warning people not to panic but prepare, with the cyclone expected to bring wild weather, 130km/h winds and 500mm of rain in just 24 hours.
Oma was a weak category two storm early on Thursday, sitting about 950km northeast off Brisbane and is moving slowly towards the coast at around 10km/h.
It’s expected to continue its slow track towards Brisbane, but at this stage the cyclone is expected to remain offshore.
Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Adam Blazak said there was still disagreement about which path the storm will take, but there was a possibility it could make landfall at the weekend.
‘On Friday, we will see an increase in wind strength and we are expected heavy rain across the weekend,’ he said.
Forecasters said it’s less likely that Cyclone Oma will cross the Queensland coast, but people are still being warned to expect high winds and dangerous swell.
The weather system was already bringing hazardous surf conditions and abnormally high tides.
Experts have issued warnings for high winds and dangerous swell coinciding with king tides along the east coast from Thursday.
Surf lifesavers say the building swell is likely to force the closure of beaches on the Gold and Sunshine coasts.
Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Jonty Hall says Oma will maintain its slow 10km/h path towards the coast until Friday.
After that, its behaviour is less predictable.
The worst effects are expected to be galeforce winds, very high swells that could erode beaches, and the possibility of heavy rain.
‘We are starting to see the main swell packet from Oma starting to arrive on the south coast of Queensland now,’ Mr Hall told ABC radio.
‘That’s likely to increase in the next couple of days.’
A severe weather warning is in place for Queensland’s east coast from the town of Seventeen Seventy to the NSW border.
‘Dangerous surf conditions are forecast to develop about the east coast of Fraser Island and Wide Bay coast north of Bargara later this afternoon and evening,’ the bureau warned early on Thursday.
‘These conditions are then expected to extend south over the remaining southeastern Queensland coast during this evening and Friday. Beach erosion is likely to continue with the hazardous marine conditions.’
The Bureau has also issued a Flood Watch from Gladstone to the New South Wales border.
While it is unusual for a cyclone to track this far south, it is not unprecedented. In 1990, Cyclone Nancy directly impacted Brisbane, but didn’t make landfall.
The storm grazed the coast near Byron Bay before moving offshore.