Weather News

Cyclone Owen crosses Queensland coast as category three system

By Nick Wiggins and staff, Saturday December 15, 2018 - 06:46 EDT
ABC licensed image
Owen is is expected to intensify into a category four system today. - ABC licensed
ABC image
Jamilla Mount said she tried to stay calm as she prepared to evacuate. - ABC

Tropical Cyclone Owen has crossed the Queensland coast as a category three storm and is weakening as it makes its way across Cape York.

Owen made landfall on the south-east Gulf of Carpentaria coast between Kowanyama and the Gilbert River Mouth at about 3:00am (AEST) and has since been downgraded to a category two.

It is expected to further weaken to a tropical low as it tracks east south-east across the northern interior today.

Kowanyama Aboriginal Shire Council has advised town residents to stay indoors, go to the smallest room in the house with the fewest windows, stay away from windows and use mattresses for protection.

Before the cyclone made landfall, BOM weather services manager Richard Wardle said the system would bring heavy rain and high winds to the area.

"They'll be significant storm tide for locations along the coast, there will also be heavy rainfall that could lead to flash flooding, there will be very destructive winds and abnormally high tides on the east coast of Queensland once the system makes it to that side," Mr Wardle said.

Last night, Fire and Emergency Service Commissioner Katarina Carroll said SES crews had already received more than 200 calls for assistance and she expected that to increase dramatically over coming days.

"From QFES alone we've put an additional 60 staff into the far northern and northern area — swift water rescue, air operations, SES as well as emergency management coordinators," she said.

"We also have two drones, particularly over the two communities we expect to be mostly affected — this gives us exceptional situational awareness when the event passes but it also allows us to rapidly do any of our damage assessments."

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk urged residents to heed emergency warnings as the cyclone approached the coast.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Assistant Commissioner Kevin Walsh said as Owen hugs the east coast it would bring significant rainfall.

"Depending on where it is down the coast, there has even been talks of 400 millimetres plus," he said.

"It can be anywhere from 100, 200, perhaps 400mm over the next few days. So with that type of rain coming in a very short time, people must be prepared for flash flooding."

Cyclone 'less likely' to approach south-east Queensland

BOM's Jonty Hall said because Owen was taking its time, the expected path over the south-east had changed.

"It is initially going to track further south but it's looking less likely that it's going to approach south-east Queensland now. It does look like it'll get stalled up around the central coast of Queensland."

Transport Minister Mark Bailey warned drivers that road conditions would be adversely affected over the coming days.

"This is of course around the time people are starting to move about post the school year. We are going to see a lot of rain across a lot of Queensland and if people are planning on any long distance travel over the next three to four days, they need to be informed by agencies as we see this extreme weather event develop," he said.

SLSQ Gold Coast coordinator Nathan Fife said lifeguards would monitor conditions and close beaches if necessary.

"It doesn't look like we're going to get the swell until later on Sunday or Monday, and we'll make that decision when we need to," he said.

"It's not going to be the greatest weekend for the beach."

Port Douglas resident and expectant mother Jamilla Mount has been making plans to evacuate her home, along with her mother and two dogs.

Ms Mount, who is 36 weeks pregnant, said driving to the hospital in Cairns on potentially flooded roads was not an option.

"I'm a single mum … I'm mainly worried about my baby, and I hope that she's not ready to come out anytime soon — I just want to keep her safe," Ms Mount said.

"I'm just trying to keep calm because the baby can feel everything … and keeping close to my Mum. Thank God for mums."


© ABC 2018

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