Oma brews up a significant threat to the south east Queensland coast.
Oma brews up a significant threat to the south east Queensland coast.

Gympie region keeps eye on approaching Oma

AS TROPICAL Cyclone Oma heads towards the southeast Queensland coast, the Gympie region is one of many nearby coastal communities that could feel the brunt of its forces if the severe weather system makes landfall over the weekend.

With one scenario predicting the eye of the storm to cross the coast anywhere between Bundaberg and Brisbane tomorrow, authorities are urging Gympie residents to prepare for severe weather conditions with the potential to drop 300mm in the region in 24 hours leading into the weekend.

 

The latest track map for Cyclone Omh issued by the Bureau of Meteorology at 5am shows the tropical storm bearing down on the Sunshine Coast before hooking in and back north. However considerable uncertainty remained with the vast grey area showing Omah could make landfall here.
The latest track map for Cyclone Omh issued by the Bureau of Meteorology at 5am shows the tropical storm bearing down on the Sunshine Coast before hooking in and back north. However considerable uncertainty remained with the vast grey area showing Omah could make landfall here.

The Bureau of Meteorology issued an initial flood watch warning late yesterday for coastal catchments between Gladstone and the NSW border, and adjacent inland areas that includes the Mary River.

Visitors to Fraser Island were yesterday urged to leave the island and Tin Can Bay SES began preparing sandbags to combat potential flash flooding in the face of the approaching system that at the least is expected to whip the Cooloola Coast with gale force winds and huge swells.

It was expected to close within 400km of the Sunshine Coast on Sunday before hooking in and then tracking north along the coast.

Considerable uncertainty remained about where it may make landfall.

Varying models tracking the tropical cyclone meant pinpointing its exact path has been difficult, BoM forecaster Adam Blazak said yesterday.

"The system may cross the coast, in which case we'd have heavy rainfall to the south of the system," Mr Blazak said.

"It's going to be quite serious if it crosses the coastline," Mr Blazak said.

"The position of it will dictate where the heaviest rainfall and strongest winds are."

 

Tin can bay Ses prepping sandbags. From, left are Meaghan Bentley, Marie Therease Ralph with help from Desley Goldsworthy from QFES.
SAND BAGGING: Members of the Tin Can Bay SES prep sandbags ahead of Cyclone Oma. From left are Meaghan Bentley, Marie Therease Ralph and Desley Goldsworthy from QFES. Contributed

The biggest concern is if the weather system lingers off the coast, though, a result that could produce massive coastal damage and deliver heavy rainfall to the region, he said.

In the worst-case scenario, Gympie could receive 300mm of rainfall in one day, but another scenario could see 20-100mm of rain falling in the region for a few days in a row, he said.

A change in the cyclone's path as little as 20km in any direction could drastically change rainfall totals and could be the difference between 300mm falling or 3mm.

"If it crosses over the Wide Bay area or Double Island Point, Gympie would be looking at the heaviest rainfall," he said.

No matter the cyclone's exact path, significant beach erosion is expected on the Cooloola Coast, with gale force winds, a large swell and dangerous surf conditions predicted to lash the region's coast from today until Monday.

 

Windy cyclone map
Windy cyclone map John Farmer

CYCLONE: 'It will hit hard...we just don't know where'

Late yesterday Rainbow Beach and Cooloola region camping areas remained open, but authorities were closely monitoring the situation and it was likely Rainbow Beach would close over the weekend, a Surf Life Saving Queensland spokesman said.

Queensland Parks and Wildlife have issued a warning for beach hazards on the Cooloola Coast such as steep sand dunes, deep washouts and gutters, hidden banks, fallen trees, exposed coffee rock and debris including logs.

"Motorists should exercise extreme care when driving on exposed beaches and plan to travel at low tide, if safe to do so," the warning states.

"Some beaches may be impassable even at low tide, and driving over vegetated dunes is not permitted despite conditions.

"On-the-spot fines will be issued for anyone caught damaging the dunes.

"Observe all signage, barriers and directions from rangers."

Gympie's SES deputy local controller Steve Clough, who said Gympie region SES volunteers were on standby ahead of the potentially severe weather event, said now was the time to prepare.

He urged residents to clear out blocked gutters, remove dangerous tree branches and store away loose items from around the home.

He said food should be well stocked and residents should have access to emergency phone numbers including power providers and the SES emergency call centre on 132500.