Severe Weather Update: Tropical cyclone Oma moving slowly southwest in the Coral Sea, 20 Feb. 2019

Severe Weather Update: Tropical cyclone Oma moving slowly southwest in the Coral Sea, 20 Feb. 2019

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Hello from the Bureau with an update on tropical
cyclone Oma. Earlier this week it looked as though Oma
would stay well to Australia’s east, but the most likely scenario now is for Oma to approach
the southern Queensland coast over the weekend, and possibly even make landfall. In terms of exactly how Oma will track, well,
the devil will be in the detail, and much of that detail is still becoming clearer over
the coming days. Right now, tropical cyclone Oma is
a category 2 system with wind gusts to around 155 km/h near the centre. Oma lies just to the southwest of New Caledonia,
and for now, is still in the area of responsibility of Fiji, who monitor tropical cyclones in
the southwest Pacific Ocean. One possibility we talked about earlier this
week was the potential for cyclone Oma to move west into the Coral Sea on Wednesday
(today), rather than stay well to the east. Well, that is the scenario we’re now looking
at now. Currently around 1100 km to the northeast
of Brisbane, Oma will continue tracking slowly towards the south-southwest over the next
few days as a category 2 system. Cyclones are always a challenge to forecast
and often have a life of their own, particularly in the Coral Sea. That’s why we include this grey shaded area
around the official forecast track, which shows the range of possibilities still on
the cards for how cyclone Oma may move. Much of how Oma tracks as we head into the
weekend will actually depend on the movement of this high pressure system to the south,
centred near Tasmania. As the ridge of high pressure builds, and
jumps across into the Tasman Sea, we expect it to push Oma back towards the west-northwest,
towards the Queensland coast. It is very uncommon for tropical cyclones
to move so far south and potentially impact along the southeast Queensland coast, but
it’s not unprecedented. In our history we’ve even seen rare cyclones
in New South Wales. Again, there’s a lot of detail still to become
clear about exactly how Oma will eventually track and develop. But it is likely that we’ll need to issue
a cyclone Watch for parts of the southern Queensland coast as cyclone Oma moves closer,
to account for the risk of coastal gales and heavy rainfall. That potential for heavy rainfall is greatest
along the coast and adjacent inland, south of about Bundaberg, as cyclone Oma approaches. Rain would most likely develop from late Saturday,
and the risk would be enhanced if Oma eventually makes landfall. In the meantime, and well ahead of Oma’s approach
towards southeast Queensland, don’t forget about the already very dangerous ocean conditions
along our coastline. A severe weather warning is currently in place
for abnormally high tides south of Seventeen Seventy, where king tides are being exacerbated
by large waves and heavy swell generated by cyclone Oma from a distance. These high tides will peak tomorrow morning
and on Friday morning, when water levels may exceed the normal level of the highest tide
of the year by around one metre. We could see significant beach erosion and
inundation of low-lying areas. A warning for hazardous surf continues along
the Queensland coast from the Capricornia down to the Gold Coast, and on Thursday that hazardous surf will extend
down as far in New South Wales as the Coffs Coast. It’s important to follow tropical cyclone
Oma over the next few days. She’s likely to have a few twists and turns
left in her yet, and forecasts and warnings may change rapidly as more information and
new information comes to hand. Stay tuned to the BOM website and app for
the latest forecasts and warnings and follow us on social media for updates. And please follow all advice from emergency
services.

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