Tropical Cyclone Marcia reached category 5 strength early this morning and is currently making landfall, bringing very heavy rain, destructive winds and large swell.
The compact but intense system has rapidly intensified over the last 24 hours as it has slowed down as it heads towards the Queensland coast.
Heavy rainfall has already been driven over QLD’s southeast ahead of the system, with widespread totals of 100-150mm along the Sunshine Coast and in the Yeppoon region.
So far residents in St Lawrence, Clairview, Ogmore and Marlborough have been asked to evacuate.
Police Constable Matt McKinnon said it was in the best interest of locals who had homes built before 1984 to go to shelters.
“The pre-1984 homes are not structurally sound to take that amount of wind gusts,” he said.
A very destructive central core of the cyclone could generate gusts up to 295 kilometres an hour, the Bureau of Meteorology warned.
Late Thursday night the cyclone warning zone was outlined as between Mackay to Double Island Point, extending inland to Blackwater, Moura, Biloela, Monto, Taroom, Mundubbera, and Murgon.
Once the cyclone makes landfall it is due to track south to reach Biloela as a category one system about 10:00pm.
BoM regional director Rob Webb said Cyclone Marcia started tracking south late on Thursday night.
“It was a remarkable intensification, we still do feel that it could cross as a category five,” Mr Webb said.
Scores of schools and regional airports will be closed on Friday and the Whitsunday Islands are in lockdown.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was briefed by the state’s disaster management committee at Kedron, in Brisbane’s north, late on Thursday afternoon.
She said Queenslanders not only had to brace for the destructive winds, but for heavy rain.
“This is a serious event,” she said.
“Queenslanders need to be prepared now.”
Torrential rain forecast
Heavy rain may be experienced from Mackay to the New South Wales border which could cause flash flooding.
Some 24-hour totals are expected in excess of 300 millimetres on the coast and nearby ranges.
BoM regional director Rob Webb said the cyclone would dump between 200 millimetres and 300 millimetres of rain but some areas may record higher than that.
“Those falls up to 500 millimetres or more are possible,” he said.
A flood watch is current for the Wide Bay and Burnett, south-east coast and the Darling Downs and Granite Belt districts.
Gladstone residents have also been warned to expect a massive storm tide at 10:00am on Friday, which is expected to be 70 centimetres above the highest tide of the year.
More than 200 swift water rescue officers have been sent to flood-prone areas.
Abnormally high tides were experienced on Thursday, expecting to continue Friday with water levels expected to rise above the highest tide of the year on the high tide.
Residents between Mackay and Double Island have been warned of the potential for a dangerous storm tide.
Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate said the city’s northern beaches were likely to bear the brunt of the big seas and erosion.
Closures were expected to be in place for several days.
“From Main Beach, Surfers Paradise all the way to Nobbys is where it’s going to be hit the hardest,” Cr Tate said.
on 19/02/2015 10:51pm
This looks potentially very serious for the people across the ditch.
It looks like it will re-energise once it clears land & head our way. It looks very much like the drought breaker and I am looking forward to the warm rain bringing me a paddock full of field mushrooms.
The timing of it is going to be interesting with the big cricket game on next Saturday in Auckland. That could be a washout if current models are accurate