Cyclone Owen to wreak havoc with up to 400mm of rain
TROPICAL Cyclone Owen, packing up to 220km/h winds and extreme rainfall, is expected to unleash a 1800km-long trail of havoc from Cairns to Coolangatta.
Storm warnings are also in place for parts of southern Queensland, with heavy rain on the Sunshine and Fraser Coasts and severe storms for Dalby and the Darling Downs.
Severe thunderstorms located to the west of #Dalby and to the west of #Millmerran. The storm to the west of Dalby is moving to the east-northeast, anomalous to the steering (all other storms are moving to the southeast). This is a reliable indication of severity. pic.twitter.com/RylyZrRecV— Bureau of Meteorology, Queensland (@BOM_Qld) December 14, 2018
Authorities have warned there are "only a few hours left" to prepare before Tropical Cyclone Owen hits Queensland's northeast coast.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has urged Queenslanders pay attention to weather warnings, check in with their neighbours and stay safe over the next few days, after a meeting today with the Queensland Disaster Management Committee.
While the cyclone has since been reduced to a Category 3, the Bureau of Meterology expects it to grow to a category 4 during the day before hitting the coast late tonight or early tomorrow.
"It will approach the coast later on today and into this evening, but it's now looking like early tomorrow morning," Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Jonte Hall told ABC radio on Friday.
After a meeting with the Queensland Disaster Management Committee, Ms Palaszczuk reassured the affected communities that authorities have done as much as they can to ensure their safety over the next few days.
Disaster officials are warning residents across the state to prepare for a "destructive" weather event as Category 4 cyclone Owen hits western Cape York and tracks south in coming days.
Dubbed a "zombie" cyclone after it re-formed in the Gulf of Carpentaria, the Category 4 system is likened to Cyclone Oswald that swept down the Queensland coast five years ago.
#CycloneOwen is due to make landfall in Queensland within the next 24 hours.— News Breakfast (@BreakfastNews) December 13, 2018
"There has even been talks of 400mm-plus rain ... people must be prepared for flash flooding," @QldFES assistant commission Kevin Walsh warns pic.twitter.com/iu0XFEg9wh
TC Owen, similar to Oswald, is predicted to dump huge rainfall totals, up to 400mm in parts, cutting highways, isolating towns, and causing power outages for tens of thousands of residents.
Oswald, a Category 1 cyclone that turned into a tropical low in Cape York, left four dead and a $2.2 billion damage bill the length of the state from flooding, mudslides, and mini-tornadoes.
The "very destructive and severe" cyclone has been meandering in the Gulf of Carpentaria, between Port Roper and Port McArthur.
In it's advice on Friday morning, the Bureau of Meteorology said the Category 3 cyclone was packing wind gusts to 195 kilometres per hour.
At 3.30am estimated to be 95 kilometres northeast of Port McArthur and 250 kilometres northwest of Mornington Island.
It was moving east southeast at 8 kilometres per hour.
"Severe Tropical Cyclone Owen has recently started moving in an easterly direction. The system remains a category 3 system and is likely to continue developing further over the next 12 to 24 hours as it moves east over open waters through a favourable environment. Severe TC Owen may reach Category 4 intensity during Friday."
Owen is expected to weaken as it moves southeastwards inland over the southern Cape York Peninsula.
However, the bureau advised: "If Owen maintains intensity during Friday very destructive winds are possible between Pormpuraaw and Gilbert River Mouth later on Friday or early Saturday. They may develop over Mornington Island during Friday afternoon if the system takes a more southerly track."
More than 2400 Ergon customers near Townsville have been left without power as the region was hit by a severe storm.
An emergency alert has been issued for Pormpuraaw, which is likely to get destructive winds from Friday afternoon.
Residents are being urged take action and warn others to seek shelter.
Gusts to 205km/h are possible in the cyclone's centre, with its exact path still unclear.
So far sustained winds have been recorded near the centre reaching 140km/h with wind gusts to 195km/h.
Hazards and warnings are set out from Numbulwar in the Northern Territory, to Aurukun in Queensland, including Borroloola, Mornington Island, Karumba, Kowanyama and Pormpuraaw.
"Coastal residents along the coast east of the cyclone to Port McArthur, including Bing Bong, are specifically warned of a dangerous storm tide as the cyclone centre moves close to the coast," the bureau warns.
"Tides will rise significantly above the normal high tide with damaging waves and dangerous flooding."
Elsewhere across Queensland regions have been lashed with severe thunderstorms and hail.
Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford said swift-water rescue crews and emergency personnel were on standby to be sent to communities that could be hard-hit.
It comes as the southern end of Australia receives record-breaking levels of rain in Victoria and flash flooding with authorities warning "it's not over yet".
Seventeen people have had to be rescued from the roofs of their cars. One hundred people travelling in 50 cars are stranded close to the M31 Hume Freeway at Wangaratta while the State Emergency Service has received 400 calls for help.
Police are pleading with people not to drive across flooded roads.
OWEN COMPARED TO OSWALD
Cyclone Owen has been compared to 2013 storm Oswald, which brought intense flooding rain to large parts of the Queensland coast after tracking south from the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Tropical cyclone Oswald made landfall on the Gulf town of Kowanyama on January 21 before tracking south-easterly.
The storm eventually reached the NSW border but not before unleashing heavy downpours and flooding Queensland communities.
Brisbane's water supply was briefly disrupted and the river burst its banks in places, while the central coast town of Bundaberg was heavily damaged by flooding.
Bureau of Meteorology tracking shows Owen taking a similar path down the Queensland coast to Oswald, however this storm is unlikely to dump as much rain due to its smaller size.
Earlier, the Bureau of Meteorology warned of exceptionally high rainfall levels all over the state.
Everywhere from Cairns to the Gold Coast can expect maximum levels of at least 200mm from tomorrow to Monday, with Townsville predicted to see up to 250mm, and Bundaberg as much as 330mm.
The North and Central coasts can expect more rain than the South East with Cairns, Townsville and Mackay expecting to see maximums between 230-250mm.
Regions between the Sunshine Coast to Toowoomba are predicted to see up to 200-235mm.
The BOM said "most of Queensland" could expect thunderstorms on Thursday, with severe systems already occurring near Longreach, Cunnamulla and Winton.
A severe thunderstorm warning has been issued for parts of the Central West, Maranoa, Warrego, Darling Downs and Granite Belt regions, with damaging winds and large hailstones likely.
A spokesman from BOM also warned of potential damaging winds in other areas across the state as the cyclone passes through.
Cairns to Mackay should prepare for extreme winds on Saturday, and everywhere from Mackay to the Gold Coast should prepare for the same on Sunday.
The cyclone could dump 300 to 400mm of rain on parts of the Cape Yorke Peninsula.
And there are fears that regions in central Queensland already devastated by bushfires could be vulnerable to landslides if expected rainfall totals of 100mm-200mm are reached.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk this morning said authorities were particularly concerned about the road from Mackay to Eungella in central Queensland.
"Once you have bushfires through an area with large amounts of rain you then have potential for landslides so we are making sure that we cover all bases," she said.
She said she was "very happy" with the extensive planning for the cyclone in some of the state's most remote communities.
But she warned Cyclone Owen would lead to a "whole lot of rain" along the state's east coast and residents should be alert to changing conditions.
Bureau of Meteorology weather services manager Richard Wardle said even after the cyclone system lost intensity as it tracked along the east coast it would bring "high impact weather" as far as the southeast corner.
"As it tracks further south the winds will diminish but we will still see some squally weather and that's why we think there'll be, locally, some very destructive winds and we'll see some really heavy rainfall totals" he said.
"It'll be in a short period of time so it's more likely to be the flash flooding that people will experience."
Most of the Queensland east coast from Cairns to Fraser Island has been put on flood watch with BOM forecasters expecting catchments to reach minor or moderate flood levels in the coming days.
Dr Wardle said the wild weather should reach southeast Queensland on Sunday however another system currently over the west of the state could bring showers and severe thunderstorms from tomorrow.
"Some of those thunderstorms will be severe and they could bring very damaging winds, heavy rainfall and large hail," he said.
He said that upper trough system would bring welcome relief to some drought parched regions of the state's southern interior from this afternoon.
"A lot Queensland is going to be impacted by rain in the next couple of days either in the north with Tropical Cyclone Owen or in the southern interior and the southeast with those thunderstorms," he said.
Bureau of Meteorology forecaster James Taylor today told ABC radio Owen could be dragged southward, along Queensland's east coast, with the help of a low pressure system expected to develop over Victoria.
"It'll be the upper trough that develops the low over southeastern Victoria that drags Tropical Cyclone Owen towards the east, and probably south-eastward, over the weekend," he told ABC radio.
"That creates a potential threat for large parts of the eastern Queensland coast, particular from flash flooding."
Mr Taylor said Owen could do what Cyclone Oswald did in 2013, and track south along Queensland's east coast, bringing driving rain with it.
"Is there potential for that to happen with this cyclone? Yes. But we won't be able to be certain about it probably until Friday afternoon, when we know were Owen is in relation to that upper trough."
Unfortunately, there seems to be little relief in sight for the state's drought zones.
Over half the state remains drought-declared, with Queensland's historic stock routes closed to graziers for the first time in living memory as severe drought conditions continue.
The State Government estimates Queensland is 58.1 per cent in drought, up from 57 per cent in July.