EXPLAINED: Systems to converge for major weather event
A 'ZOMBIE' cyclone in the far north and a strong low in the south are expected to combine to unleash the most significant weather event since March, with heavy rain and strong winds to lash the Queensland coast.
Tropical Cyclone Owen reformed as a Category 1 system over the Gulf of Carpentaria last night, before it's expected to intensify into a Category 3 later today, bringing up to 224km/h wind gusts.
The Bureau of Meteorology said Tropical Cyclone Owen was moving slowly west over the southern Gulf of Carpentaria overnight. At about 3.30am it was 250km north northwest of Mornington Island and had winds of about 75kmh at the centre, with wind gusts to 100kmh.
The Bureau has forecast the system to later change direction and head back towards Queensland's Cape York Peninsula region about 10am on Friday, before hitting the coast near Kowanyama later in the day.
"It may reach category 3 intensity by Thursday if conditions remain favourable. A coastal crossing along the southeast Gulf of Carpentaria coast during Friday is most likely," the BoM said.
After crossing the Queensland coast the cyclone is then predicted to track down the east coast this weekend and combine with a low pressure system around southeast Queensland, causing widespread heavy rainfall.
Sky News Weather channel meteorologist Rob Sharpe said eastern Australia was facing its biggest weather event since March.
The weather bureau has forecast totals as high as 50mm in Cairns on Friday, while Townsville (70mm) and Mackay (80mm) are expected to receive a drenching on Saturday.
Rain forced the cancellation of Townsville's Carols By Candlelights last Sunday.
A Cyclone 🌀 WATCH is issued when a #cyclone is expected to bring gale-force winds to coastal areas within 48 hours. A Cyclone ⚠️ WARNING is issued when gales are expected within 24 hours or are already occurring: https://t.co/5iQxyRKzFX pic.twitter.com/N9utap829B— Bureau of Meteorology, Queensland (@BOM_Qld) December 11, 2018
The low pressure system in the south will combine with Tropical Cyclone Owen in southeast Queensland on Saturday, producing widespread heavy rain - up to 85mm from Friday through until Sunday.
Bureau meteorologist Harry Clark said it was shaping to be a very active week of weather across the state.
"The difficulty is where it goes after (it crosses the Queensland coast)," he said.
"That low is likely to pop off the coast and remain very close to the coast and then ride the coast down for much of the length of Queensland.
"If it does, that will lead to fairly widespread, significant heavy rainfall … from possibly Cairns to the southeast corner.
"It's definitely something we're keeping an eye on."
Mr Clark said an extensive stretch of severe thunderstorms are also likely to hit parts of western Queensland tomorrow and Friday, for towns around St George, Roma and Charleville.
People between the Queensland/NT border and Burketown have been advised to take precautions and keep informed.
Queensland Health said patients at medical centres in several remote communities would be evacuated before the storm.
Four patients from Pormpuraaw and 17 patients from Kowanyama would be moved by Thursday evening as cyclone Owen sets its sights on the state's north.