A Coral Sea storm could today become powerful enough to be declared a cyclone, the Bureau of Meteorology has warned, bringing with it heavy rains and a potential storm surge as it crosses the Queensland coast.
- BOM warns the storm may develop into a category three cyclone by Wednesday morning
- It may track as far south as the New South Wales border after making landfall
- It comes as much of the state is enduring a heatwave
While current forecasts have the storm on track to cross the coast just south of Townsville, it could impact anywhere along a 750-kilometre stretch between Cairns and Mackay, likely around the middle of the week.
The bureau said the system could develop into a category one cyclone by 10pm and reach category three strength by Wednesday morning.
Senior meteorologist Steve Hadley said the storm had been developing slowly and, while some forecasts suggested the storm would remain offshore, a coastal crossing was most likely.
“It is looking less likely now that the tropical cyclone will not make landfall,” he said.
He said the storm could track as far south as the Queensland/New South Wales border once it made landfall.
“Some of the longer-term predictions even have that moving south of the Queensland border into New South Wales, or even back out to sea again,” Mr Hadley said.
“So we’re still left yet to develop a really clear picture of where this tropical cyclone is going to go beyond the middle of this week.”
Mr Hadley said there was the potential for heavy rainfall well south of the system, and a risk of a storm surge as it approached the coastline.
“In the coastal areas of Queensland there will be high seas, rough swells and even around that crossing zone, potentially a storm surge as well around the crossing time of the cyclone,” Mr Hadley said.
“These are all things to be aware of in coming days.”
The cyclone warning comes more than a month after ex-Tropical Cyclone Jasper crossed the Queensland Coast near Wujal Wujal, which resulted in devastating flooding throughout the region.
There’s ‘no need to panic’
Townsville City Council Mayor Jenny Hill said many residents were beginning to prepare for the potential cyclone.
“We just want people to prepare. There’s no need to panic. It’s well off to sea at the moment,” she said.
“We don’t need you to get excited; we don’t need you to panic. We just need you to prepare.”
She said residents had been clearing their homes of green waste materials that could pose a danger in strong winds.
“What we try to do here is we don’t alarm people. We just want to make people alert to their responsibility,” Cr Hill said.
She said education about the dangers of severe weather was an ongoing process across Queensland.
“It’s a constant education of community to ensure that they understand that you can’t expect government or government agencies to always be there to help you,” Cr Hill said.
“You need to show a certain amount of resilience, and the first thing you can do is look after your own home.
“Governments can’t go around and mow every home, can’t clear every gutter, can’t pick up every bit of waste. If you want to protect yourself and your neighbours, it’s up to you.”
Cr Hill said North Queensland residents tended to take more precautions as the forecast became clearer.
“You’ll see people either dismantle or tie down things like trampolines,” she said.
“They’re the sorts of things I saw during the recent event on the Gold Coast. I had a friend of mine who had a trampoline go through their neighbour’s roof.
“Those sorts of items … become missiles. We need people ensure that they’re tied down or they’re safely put away.”
‘Plan what you’re going to do’
Mackay Regional Council Mayor Greg Williamson said emergency management teams were on alert.
“We shouldn’t be complacent about this,” he said.
“Now’s the time to start thinking about business continuity plans, what you’re going to do with your family, what are you going to do with your pets, all those sorts of things.”
He said preparations with emergency crews would continue today.
“As far as our emergency management team goes, they are on alert right now,” Cr Willamson said.
“They’re making sure that whatever we have to do as a council in terms of interacting with response centres, with the SES with evacuations, with recovery centres, all of that will happen first thing.”
Queensland Police Minister Mark Ryan said residents should pay close attention to warnings in the coming days.
He said parts of the state could be vulnerable to flooding following recent wet weather.
“Listen to the authorities. You might have to make some decisions about staying at home if the authorities say that the system is going to bring a lot of rain and, of course, then bring flash flooding,” Mr Ryan said.
“We know right across the state there is wet catchments already. Those areas are more prone to flash flooding.”
Heatwave on first day of school
Queensland is also in the middle of a heatwave and conditions are not expected to ease until Tuesday.
Mr Hadley said there would be a “spike in the temperatures” today, with parts of the Scenic Rim and Lockyer Valley expecting to see the mercury rising well above 30 degrees Celsius.
“That’s expected to be the hottest day of this period,” he said.
He said the hot conditions had been caused by a build up of warm air.
“We’ve also got really high humidity across most of the south-east, and that’s following days and days where we’ve had no cooler air masses arriving from the south, so the heat’s just been able to build up,” Mr Hadley said.
The Queensland Ambulance Service has reported an increase in heat stress-related calls.
“We’ve had a fairly long run of [warm weather] now over the last couple of weeks, and it’s not just the heat. It’s the humidity,” Metro North Senior Operations supervisor Matthew Hannabery said.
“There has definitely been an increase [in calls] across the board in recent weeks.”
He said people should be wary symptoms of heat stress, which can include dizziness, dry eyes and throat and nausea, particularly as school resumes after the summer break.
“With kids going back to school if parents can keep that in mind, ensure they have access to water,” Mr Hannebery said.