Severe tropical cyclone expected to hit Australia's north-east

A flooded street in south Melbourne on Thursday. Australians have been warned to brace themselves for wild weather as Cyclone Owen strengthens off the north coast of Queensland state.
A flooded street in south Melbourne on Thursday. Australians have been warned to brace themselves for wild weather as Cyclone Owen strengthens off the north coast of Queensland state.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SYDNEY - Australians in the north-east of the country are bracing themselves for a severe tropical cyclone, with the authorities warning of flash floods and destructive winds.

Cyclone Owen has been strengthening off the north coast of Queensland state in warm waters in the Gulf of Carpentaria, and is expected to reach Category 4 - defined as a severe tropical cyclone with very destructive winds - when it makes landfall early today.

"With landfall, there will be significant storm tide for locations along the coast," said Mr Richard Wardle from the Queensland Bureau of Meteorology yesterday. "There will also be heavy rainfall that could lead to flash floods. There will be very destructive winds and abnormally high tides on the east coast of Queensland, once the system makes it to that side."

Winds of up to 200kmh are expected as the cyclone reaches land near the border of the Northern Territory and Queensland, before making its way down the east coast. Emergency services have sent dozens of extra personnel to towns in the path of the cyclone.

"Tonight, bed down and stay safe. Take your medication with you, a torch, and make sure you have a really good idea of a place of safety," said state disaster coordinator Bob Gee. "We are ready to press the button if there is damage or need for help, as soon as we possibly can."

Australia is no stranger to extreme weather, experiencing flash floods, sandstorms and even extreme drought in some areas. Queensland is still recovering from bush fires last month that burned across the state amid an unprecedented heatwave, while Cyclone Nora tracked a similar path to that of Cyclone Owen in March, bringing heavy rain and flooding.

Last year, Cyclone Debbie pummelled Queensland after crashing ashore as a Category 4 storm.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 15, 2018, with the headline 'Severe tropical cyclone expected to hit Australia's north-east'. Print Edition | Subscribe