Cyclone watch issued as Oma approaches southeast coast
A CYCLONE watch has been issued from Bundaberg to Ballina including Brisbane, the Gold and Sunshine coasts as Cyclone Oma continues its ominous approach to the southeast Queensland.
While forecasters predict the system is now only 20 per cent likely to hit the Queensland coast, warnings are in place for severe weather and hazardous surf conditions, and strong winds and up to 300mm of rain are expected in places.
People between Bundaberg and the QLD-NSW border are being advised to consider what action they will need to take if the cyclone threat increases.
Surf Life Saving Queensland at 8.30am announced that all Gold Coast beaches were closed as a result of the combination of big swell generated by Oma and unusually high tides, and most beaches between the Sunshine Coast and Fraser Island are also closed.
As the category 2 system sits around 950km off the coast of Brisbane, tracking southwesterly at about 10km/h, uncertainty remains on what the cyclone will do, with the Bureau of Meteorology expecting impacts to be felt along the coast even if the cyclone does not cross land.
All Gold coast beaches
Main Beach, North Stradbroke Island
"The chance of Cyclone Oma hitting is less likely now, however it can't be ruled out," BoM forecaster Kimba Wong said. "There is a very low chance of it hitting the coast, about less than 20 per cent chance."
The BoM is warning of strong winds, high tides and swells along the coast, and potential heavy rainfall regardless of Oma's direction.
"There are going to be pretty strong winds today of 40km/h, with gales starting tomorrow for Brisbane through to the weekend... quite windy along the coast and in elevated areas," Ms Wong said.
"The heaviest rainfall will be concentrated further north at the Sunshine Coast and Fraser Island, however that is heavily dependent on what the cyclone will do.
"We could see up to 100mm of rain and in excess of 300mm in local areas - Brisbane will see 10 to 50mm this weekend while the Gold Coast will see 10 to 30mm on Saturday."
Hazardous surf warnings remain in place for Queensland as well as severe weather warning for abnormally high tides for people in parts of Wide Bay, Burnett, Gold Coast, Maroochydore, Moreton Island, Noosa Heads, Caloundra and Rainbow Beach.
There is even more uncertainty as the weekend comes, with the possibility the cyclone could move further north to warmer waters or linger off the southern coast.
Overnight, forecasters were divided over what happens when Oma gets closer to the southeast Queensland coast, showing 20 different possible paths it could take.
An analysis provided to emergency groups shows a possibility the weather event will spear north and sit near Bundaberg for much of next week.
BoM forecaster Adam Blazak said one of the scenarios was Oma may "linger" off the southeast coast and this potentially could have an enormous impact, creating a sustained deluge.
Mr Blazak said if it hovered, it could produce rainfall totals of up to 100mm a day for a number of days, which could create flooding.
"The beaches will get beaten up and there will be rain and flooding, particularly south of Bundaberg. If it crosses the coast, we could see 500mm in some areas in one day, but it might head inland and help farmers."
Mr Blazak said Oma was last night a Category-2 system, packing wind gusts of up to 130km/h.
Today, more effects will be felt, with winds increasing to 45km/h and a powerful long-period swell hitting the coast.