Published: Sun, February 24, 2019
Sci-tech | By Jackie Newman

Unsafe surf along northern NSW coast

Unsafe surf along northern NSW coast

Drumlines have been removed off the Capricorn Coast with predictions Cyclone Oma will cause risky sea conditions this weekend.

Late on Thursday, Oma was about 820km northeast of Brisbane, packing wind gusts of up to 130km/h.

"There will be lifeguards every 600m on the Gold Coast and others on standby", he said.

The Bureau of Meteorology in Australia has also predicted the southern Queensland coast will be battered by high tides and powerful winds. High tides and hazardous conditions for surfing are already being observed.

"Areas of widespread heavy rainfall are no longer expected", it advised.

Beaches from Tweed Heads to Port Macquarie have been closed and are expected to remain closed until early next week.

Gold Coast mayor Tom Tate said Oma was still very unpredictable, and lifesavers had told people to get out of the surf after they ignored beach closed signs.

In Ballina and Byron Bay, residents were cautioned of rising tides, ocean swell and risky surf, with an abnormally high-tide warning issued for Ballina.

A severe weather warning remains in place from the Fraser Coast to the NSW border.

Organisers are issuing sandbags at locations in Coomera, Tugun and Reedy Creek, with a 15 bag limit placed on each household, according to The Gold Coast Bulletin.

Although modelling now shows Oma will stay well off the coast, it is predicted to turn north-west and cause gale force winds on Saturday in the Cap Coast waters.

"Sandbags should be placed over floor wastes and drains ... to prevent backflow of grey water entering", signage read. The worst effects are expected to be gale-force winds, very high swells that could erode beaches, and heavy rain.

However, respected models used in the USA and Europe now show an increasing likelihood of the cyclone making landfall in Queensland.

Wide Bay Volunteer Marine Rescue's Bill Ker said conditions are likely to be particularly risky for small and recreational watercraft.

While it may intensify throughout Friday, it's hoped it will then weaken again - and remain largely out at sea.

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Closures may continue on Sunday, depending on weather conditions.

Weather prediction models now suggest Oma will be 300km off the Sunshine Coast on Saturday, but for how long, and where it goes next is anyone's guess.

There are more than a dozen possible paths the system could take, with Brisbane and the Gold Coast potentially right in the firing line.

"Minor flooding is possible in coastal catchments south of Bundaberg from Saturday".

Authorities are warning people not to panic but to prepare themselves and their properties for a weekend of wild weather.

A flood watch is now in place for coastal communities between Gladstone and the NSW border.

The same conditions were expected as far south as Yamba in northern NSW.

Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Adam Blazak said there was still disagreement about which path the storm would take, but it could make landfall on the weekend. "A crossing is not certain yet, and there are scenarios where it may linger off the coast", he said.

While the tropical cyclone is moving away from the coast, easterly and northeasterly swells are expected to increase in the next few days, leading to further hazardous surf conditions.

The waves are picking up and expecting to increase to three metres inshore and four metres offshore by Friday before six metre offshore waves on the weekend.

"A severe weather watch is now in place for Friday and Saturday for upper parts of the North Island, as warm tropical air is expected to bring rain with potentially heavy falls to Northland and north Auckland", says meteorologist Rob Kerr.

Monday will be dry with the winds dropping off quickly in the morning as a high pressure builds.

The cyclone's sudden change of direction has amplified the risk.

The high likelihood of the cyclone's movement is also expected to lead to strong, gale force winds from Sunday. "There is still uncertainty in the forecast track from Saturday", meteorologist Andrea Peace says in a video update this afternoon.

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