Destructive cyclone to impact Northern Rivers from today
UPDATE 1.40pm: The weather bureau has advised Cyclone Oma has been downgraded from a Category 3 system to a Category 2.
The system is still tracking towards the Queensland coast and is expected to cause abnormally high tides, dangerous surf and strengthening winds are expected for coastal areas with heavy rainfall possible from Saturday.
ORIGINAL STORY: CATEGORY three Cyclone Oma could make landfall in Queensland this weekend after a sudden change in direction overnight.
If it does, the system would bring "destructive and damaging" winds from Brisbane down the east coast, which would see Northern Rivers copping winds in excess of 70km/h on Saturday.
Emergency Services are preparing for standby with the SES saying units are already checking their gear in anticipation of severe weather.
Regardless of whether it smashes the coast with a direct hit, people are being warned to take extra care near water with huge swells almost a certainty along with possible coastal erosion.
The effects are already being felt locally with a Hazardous Surf Warning issued for the Byron coast today, with wave heights predicted to be around five metres in the coming days.
Large and powerful surf conditions will be accompanied by south-easterly winds up to 25 knots on Thursday and Friday, when swells will peak rising to four metres.
According to Australia's Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), category 3 cyclones are "very destructive" with typical gusts over open flat land of 165 - 224km/h.
How much impact will Cyclone Oma have? BoM reveals scenarios
BoM manager of weather services in NSW Jane Golding said "It's currently category three up near New Caledonia and is moving slowly at the moment towards the south-south west."
"If it keeps tracking towards the QLD coast what we would see is increased rainfall and increased winds from Friday onwards," Ms Golding said.
"That scenario could produce some flooding and it's better to be prepared a few days earlier.
"Rainfall will depend on how far the low crosses the coast to northern NSW.
"It's a massive swirl of clouds on the radar but because its moving so slowly its tricky to forecast with any certainty where it will be out past a few days.
"It's in Fiji's area of responsibility at the moment."
Ms Golding said there was a few different scenarios but forecasters were fairly confident for the next two to three days, when things will ramp up.
"What we know about the system is pretty irrespective of which way it tracks," she said.
"It's still going to generate some really powerful waves and they're lining up with naturally high tides.
"We normally get a pretty high base line for tides and then the system will produce waves on top of that and surge on top of that.
"What we know at the very least is powerful waves affecting southern Queensland and northern NSW coast with dangerous conditions out on the water.
"It's still in the ballpark that we might see some inundation or some low-level flooding from sea water coming in where it doesn't normally get to, and that's from these higher tides and the waves on top."
She said even if the cyclone stays off the coast the Northern Rivers area will see galeforce southerlies which would bring showers glancing the coast which may be heavy at times.
"If the low keeps tracking west and crosses the coast these events can produce hundreds of millimetres of rain within 24 hours.
"The slow moving cyclones are very unpredictable."
SES: 'Get Ready'
The NSW SES is encouraging all Northern Rivers and Mid North Coast residents to get ready for the possibility of severe weather associated with Cyclone Oma starting later in the week. High tide levels are predicted and may cause issues in low lying coastal towns. Heavy seas are also predicted with waves around 5m along our NE coastline. This will cause coastal erosion in some areas.
What we do know is that all cyclones and tropical lows are extremely unpredictable in direction and intensity. They are known to bring heavy rain, dangerous winds and heavy seas. NSW SES advise that we all need to keep an eye on TC Oma and monitor its progress daily.
NSW SES Acting Northern Zone Commander, Mr Mark Somers said NSW SES was already preparing in anticipation of possible severe weather.
"Members have been notified about availability and SES Units are already checking their gear," he said.
"While we are preparing, we advise our communities that now is a good time to check your Home or Business Emergency Plan and to restock or update your Home Emergency Kit."
NSW SES Community Capability Officer, Ms Pettit added, "An Emergency Plan helps people to know what to do, where to go, how to get there and who to contact if a disaster occurs. Your Home Emergency Kit should be packed with items to help you survive in case of power/phone outages or in case you become isolated."