UPDATE at 1:45 PM | THE effects of Tropical Cyclone Oma are already being felt along the Queensland coast, with the weather bureau refusing to rule out the possibility of a coastal crossing just yet.
A Tropical Cyclone Watch is current for the coast from Bundaberg in Queensland to Ballina in northern New South Wales.
Queensland State Manager Bruce Gunn said Oma’s effects are already being felt, with higher than normal tides and dangerous surf causing coastal erosion on exposed beaches.
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Surf and swell conditions are only expected to get worse as Oma nears the coast and as a result, all beaches on the Gold Coast and Tweed Coast have been closed.
Mr Gunn said the wild seas presented a danger for even the most experienced swimmers and surfers.
“Forecast certainty is shaping up to see the most likely scenario that Cyclone Oma will approach the coast this weekend, and a coastal crossing cannot be ruled out at this stage,” Mr Gunn said.
“Gale force winds are possible for exposed coastal beaches, combined with heavy rainfall.
“Forecast rainfall totals are largely dependent on the cyclone track, and there still are a wide range of scenarios at this point,” said Mr Gunn.
Updated forecast track maps are due to be issued every six hours.
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At this stage, Oma is expected to come within 500km of the Gold Coast before taking on a more northerly track.
While it is unusual for a cyclone to track this far south, the weather bureau says it is not unprecedented.
The last time a fully-fledged cyclone came this close to southeast Queensland was in 1990 when Nancy brushed passed Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
UPDATE at 11.30 AM | THE Bureau of Meteorology has issued its first Cyclone Watch for Tropical Cyclone Oma as the system edges closer towards the east coast.
The Cyclone Watch, issued at 11.07am, is for all areas between Bundaberg in Queensland and Ballina on the New South Wales north coast and includes Brisbane and both Gold and Sunshine Coasts.
Although Oma is not expected to make landfall in the coming days, the Bureau of Meteorology warns her impacts will still be felt along both the southern Queensland and northern New South Wales coast.
It’s the first time an official Cyclone Watch has been issued for the Gold Coast since Cyclone Nancy brushed passed the city in 1990.
The Bureau of Meteorology says the large Watch zone will be refined further as Oma gets closer, with new track maps due to be issued every six hours.
At 10am on Thursday, Oma – still a category two system – was situated approximately 890 kilometres northeast of Brisbane and moving southwest at 11km/h.
The weather bureau says Oma is expected to remain a category two system as it tracks southwest towards the southeast Queensland coast today and tomorrow.
The tropical storm is then forecast to slow down on Saturday and remain offshore before tracking back towards the north or northwest.
“Although Oma is not expected to make landfall in the coming days it will be close enough to produce direct impacts along the Queensland and New South Wales coast,” the Bureau said in its 11am update.
Gale force winds are expected to develop along exposed coastal areas of southern Queensland tomorrow, well ahead of Oma, and may extend into coastal parts of Northern New South Wales on Saturday.
A hazardous surf warning remains in place with seas and swells expected to increase on the Fraser Coast from Thursday afternoon, extending to the Gold Coast and northern New South Wales on Thursday evening and into Friday.
FIRST at 6.00 AM | RESIDENTS on the Gold Coast are being told they can still expect to see strong winds and wild seas develop and increase over the coming days, regardless of where Tropical Cyclone Oma decides to go.
While the Gold Coast has been battered by three ex-tropical cyclones in the past seven years, not since 1990 when Cyclone Nancy passed the city has a fully-fledged cyclone threatened to come so close.
At 5am on Thursday, Oma was located 960 kilometres northeast of Brisbane and was creeping towards the southwest at 8km/h.
The Bureau of Meteorology’s latest tracking advice has Oma maintaining its category 2 strength as it slowly moves towards the southeast Queensland coast before taking on a more northwesterly track on Saturday.
This change in direction will turn the cyclone away from the Gold Coast and send it towards Fraser Island.
“Tropical Cyclone Oma is expected to continue moving in a general southwesterly direction for the next couple of days whilst maintaining category 2 intensity, bringing it closer to the southeast Queensland coast on Friday,” the Bureau stated at 5.04am this morning.
“Oma’s motion becomes slow moving and more uncertain over the weekend, possibly taking a more northwest track off the Queensland coast. Oma may still be close enough to produce direct impacts along the Queensland coast even if it does not make landfall.”
The Bureau of Meteorology on Thursday said it still could not rule out a coastal crossing in southeast Queensland.
Scroll down to find out what we can expect on the Gold Coast
The Bureau said it was likely to issue its first official ‘Cyclone Watch’ for the system on Thursday.
In the meantime, a Severe Weather Warning is current for abnormally high tides and dangerous surf for parts of the Wide Bay and Burnett and Southeast Coast forecast districts.
Wherever Oma ends up, however, residents on the Gold Coast will still feel the effects of the system as it bears down.
While strengthening winds and cyclonic swells are a given for the Coast, there’s still plenty of uncertainty as to exactly how much rain will fall, and where.
Large and powerful surf was already causing havoc on the beaches on Wednesday, while parts of Budds Beach flooded on high tide.
The Gold Coast’s Local Disaster Management Group has shifted into ‘alert’ status, with the number of staff manning the city’s disaster centre doubling to deal with the impending threat.
Mayor Tom Tate on Wednesday told reporters now was the time to “plan and prepare”.
“This is not time to panic, this is the time to plan and get ready,” Mayor Tate said.
“As far as the city of the Gold Coast is concerned, some alert areas include low lying areas like Palm Beach, Budds Beach, Paradise Point and Hope Island.
“As well as pedestrian underpasses like Q Store at Bermuda Street, Carrara Markets, Thomas Drive and Sundale Bridge,” he said.
Here’s what we’re being told to expect here on the Gold Coast:
Damaging winds are likely to be felt along the coastal fringe and islands from Thursday night, while gale force winds are expected to develop along exposed coastal areas during Friday.
Exactly how much rain will fall and where will be entirely dependant on Oma’s movement over the coming days.
The closer Oma comes to the Coast, the more significant the rainfall will be.
At this stage, the bureau is forecasting anywhere between 10-50mm of rain to fall in Surfers Paradise over the weekend.
The Bureau of Meteorology warns the heaviest rainfall is likely to be concentrated around the Sunshine Coast and Wide Bay regions, where between 100-200mm of rain could fall each day, with isolated heavier falls possible.
Again, however, it will all be dependant on where Oma goes as to how much rain falls and where.
“The specific area and duration of this heavy rainfall is dependent on the track of Tropical Cyclone Oma,” the Bureau said.
The Bureau of Meteorology warns if heavy rainfall does develop, it may lead to localised flooding in some areas, and riverine flooding in others.
As a result, a Flood Watch was issued on Wednesday and is current for coastal catchments between Gladstone and the NSW Border and adjacent inland areas. This includes Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
The Bureau of Meteorology warns river level rises above the minor flood level will be possible across the warning area over the weekend and early next week.
“Based on the current forecast track, minor flooding is possible in coastal catchments south of Bundaberg from early in the weekend,” the Bureau said.
Depending on exactly where Oma goes, some catchments could experienced moderate to major flooding.
To read the Flood Watch in its entirety, click here.
Dangerous surf conditions are forecast to develop over Fraser Island and Capricornia coastal waters, south of about Seventeen Seventy during Thursday afternoon and evening before extending south on Friday.
As a result, surf and swell conditions will be hazardous for coastal activities such as rock fishing, boating, and swimming.
Waves could peak as high as eight metres on some beaches, leading to significant coastal erosion.
A hazardous surf warning is in place for Capricornia Coast, Hervey Bay, Fraser Island Coast, Sunshine Coast Waters, Moreton Bay and Gold Coast Waters.
Surf Life Saving Queensland advise that:
- People should consider staying out of the water and avoid walking near surf-exposed areas.
- Rock fishers should avoid coastal rock platforms exposed to the ocean and seek a safe location that is sheltered from the surf.
- Boaters planning to cross shallow water and ocean bars should consider changing or delaying their voyage.
- Boaters already on the water should carry the appropriate safety equipment and wear a lifejacket.
- Boaters should remember to log on with their local radio base and consider their safety management plan
The increasing swell is also expected to combine with king tides.
The weather bureau warns water levels on the high tide may exceed the highest tide of the year by around one metre on the morning high tides on Thursday and Friday.
Locations which may be affected include Gold Coast, Maroochydore, Moreton Island, Noosa Heads, Fraser Island, Caloundra, North Stradbroke Island and Rainbow Beach.
NOTE: This forecast was current at the time of writing. The next Forecast Track Map and Severe Weather Warning were due to be issued by 11:00am on Thursday. For the most recent forecasts and weather warnings, always refer to the Bureau of Meteorology.