19 Feb 2015, 7:42 AM UTC
Tropical Cyclone Marcia: Category four system expected to cross Queensland coast
Source: Audience submitted
Tropical Cyclone Marcia is now forecast to intensify to category four by the time it crosses the central Queensland coast early on Friday. The cyclone is currently a category three weather system and looms about 200 kilometres off the coast. It is expected to make landfall between Mackay and Gladstone, lashing the areas with destructive gusts of up to 270 kilometres per hour (kph) at about 3:00am Friday. Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) regional director Rob Webb said the situation was rapidly escalating. "It has developed more rapidly than normal," he said. "It is time to stay indoors and keep your eye on the latest developments." Residents from Mackay to the New South Wales border have been warned to expect intense rain of more than 300 millimetres. More than 200 swiftwater rescue officers have been sent to flood-prone areas. Up to half a metre of rain is expected to be dumped on some areas by Saturday on a massive stretch of the state's coast, from central Queensland to the southern border. Abnormally high tides will be experienced today along the coast, with water levels expected to rise above the highest tide of the year on the high tide. Mr Webb said the early effects of Cyclone Marcia were expected to be felt later this afternoon and tonight. He said the impact would continue after the system crossed the coast. "Rainfall figures near the coastal strip in excess of 300 millimetres in some places in a day - it could be higher in spots," he said. "We just need to be aware that river levels could be rising quickly, people need to be aware that they don't drive into or enter flood waters, and take particular care in this developing situation." Queensland Fire and Emergency Services spokesman Chris White said there were swiftwater rescue teams on standby from Caloundra to the state's North Burnett. "We've accessed three helicopters on standby - one at Maroochydore and two in Bundaberg - foreseeing not only possible rescues but also to get our crews into flood-prone areas if that does occur," he said. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the state coordination centre in Brisbane was now fully staffed. Ms Palaszczuk said 31 local disaster management groups had been activated. "At this stage everyone just needs to be getting ready," she said. "Make sure that you have everything that you [could] possibly need and also take care along the Queensland coast and the rivers over the coming days - we expect a lot of rainfall." State disaster coordinator Steve Gollschewski said Queenslanders should be cautious. "There's no need to go out on the roads, don't do that," he said. "They're not safe environments when we have a lot of rain." The state disaster management committee will meet again later this afternoon. Bundaberg locals 'nervous', Mayor says Bundaberg Mayor Mal Forman said locals were on edge because the . "It does make you feel a little bit nervous â€“ you do feel for your people," he said. "However, with the extra training that we have done and what we've put in place, like the new rain gauges and water measuring systems in the river from way up there at Mundubbera, Eidsvold, through the catchment areas to Bundaberg, we have a very good idea of what rain is falling and where it's falling." Bundaberg Police Inspector Kevin Guteridge said residents should be prepared for unpredictable, changing conditions, and the possibility of waterspouts. "With the forecast storms and some very, very heavy wind activity leading up to this event coming through, there are some very significant concerns for the intensity of those storms to maybe form into that waterspout activity that we witnessed here a few years ago," he said. "There's no real ability to predict where that may be or what it is but we just need people to be very, very mindful." Inspector Guteridge urged residents not to venture out in the wild weather. "We are going to have very, very dangerous surf, we are going to have fast running water in areas â€“ keep out of it," he said. "There's absolutely no reason, no justification, for people to put themselves at risk unnecessarily." North Burnett Mayor Don Waugh said dams in his region were already at capacity. "Our concern is, because now the dams and the weirs in the river are already full, the water that comes down will flow virtually straight through, so that's certainly going to affect Bundaberg," he said. Gladstone Mayor Gail Sellers said the Awoonga Dam was already spilling, but that it was too early to tell whether downstream communities would be affected by major flooding. Mackay emergency management coordinator Anthony Lee said high tides were also a concern in the north Queensland city. "Those people that may be affected are in low-lying areas like Cremorne and such," he said. Flash flooding expected, coastal towns may be cut off On the Sunshine Coast, the region's disaster management coordinator Andrew Ryan said flash flooding was expected in low-lying areas and some hinterland towns might be cut off. Mr Ryan said the wild weather was coinciding with the highest king tides of the year. "We have concerns with a couple of low-lying caravan parks and unfortunately we know that some of our areas such as Golden Beach and Maroochydore foreshores, roads, will go under as well with those high tides and a bit of a storm surge and those high swells," he said. "The combination could mean some localised disruptions and some stormwater overflows if the rainfall's coming down intensively at the same time." The Noosa State Emergency Service (SES) distributed sandbags to hinterland towns as well as low-lying coastal areas. SES controller Stan Ryan said if predicted rainfall hit the area it was likely some homes and business could go under water. "If that [rainfall] does eventuate, there'll probably be a bit of water over Gympie Terrace down there along the shopfronts," he said. Gympie council spokesman Dimitri Scordalides said the region was well prepared for flash flooding. "Swiftwater rescue have been deployed in Gympie. The police, the ambulance and fire [service] are all making preparations," he said. Brisbane council prepares for some flooding In Brisbane, the council has closed off street parking in some low-lying areas subject to flooding. The areas prone to inundation include streets in Windsor, Herston, Fortitude Valley, Bowen Hills and Albion on the city's northside. The council said streets would reopen to parking on Saturday once the severe weather and higher than usual tides had passed. Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk said at noon that 36,000 sandbags had been distributed to residents so far. "We're reproducing those at the rate of about 3,000 an hour at the moment and we've got about 4,000 in supply," he said. "So again, take what you need but please don't over take them, because there are a lot of people that will need these sandbags and we want to get those people serviced as quickly as we can. "Last year we went out and purchased sandbag producing machines, which increased our capacity very, very substantially." Sandbags were also in strong demand on the Gold Coast with cars queuing for supplies at Southport since this morning. SES controller Jade Woollard said volunteers had been restocking bag and sand supplies to cope with the demand. "We've got 37 cars lined up waiting for sandbags," he said. "We've done 40 cubic metres of sand in the last two days. We have probably handed out between 4,500 sandbags. "I am astounded - I really didn't think they would be this popular." Beaches closed as weather worsens Most southern Queensland beaches are expected to be closed today, with Mr Otto saying the high tides would mean significant beach erosion. "With the astronomical tides being pretty high anyway, this weather system should mean there'll be significant beach erosion and some abnormally high tides in coastal areas," he said. The swell is big and seas are largely deserted off the Gold and Sunshine coasts, with Volunteer Marine Rescue organisations saying no boats have ventured out today. All Gold Coast beaches have been closed, with waves of up to 4.6 metres off the Tweed coast. Gold Coast chief lifeguard Warren Young said experienced surfers were revelling in big waves. "A lot of surfers can get at it and try some worthwhile waves," he said. "They are quite happy with the situation - some taking off from jet skis and so on." Most Sunshine Coast beaches are closed, except for a few sheltered ones at Noosa and Caloundra. Councils along the coast are preparing for beach erosion, with a 1.8 metre king tide this morning already claiming part of Duranbah Beach on the Queensland-New South Wales border. West of Brisbane, Lockyer Mayor Steve Jones said the local council had activated their warning systems and would monitor local waterways. "We're probably in as good a situation as we can be in, but I suppose when you think back to 2011 we have to be prepared for something out of the usual can occur," he said. Shipping disrupted in Gladstone to Brisbane Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) spokesman Patrick Quirk said ships would be moved away from Gladstone Harbour this morning as a precaution. "We have about 11 ships in the port and 23 ships at anchor and they'll be asked to clear the area," he said. "We have some LNG tankers also in the area and they'll go to sea to weather the storm." Mr Quirk has also urged boaties to stay away from the water. "In reality you'd be a very brave or foolish seafarer who went to sea in these conditions unless it was an urgent or lifesaving issue," he said. "The seas will be big, the swells will be big, the winds will be strong, and the rain will be very, very heavy." Mr Quirk said it was likely cruise ships due to arrive at the Port of Brisbane today and on Saturday would be delayed.
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