Southern Queensland was battered by high winds and damaging waves up to 13 metres high on Friday as Cyclone Oma wended a slow path south – and authorities warned of more wild weather to come over the weekend.
Oma was downgraded to a category one storm on Thursday but was expected to re-intensify to category two later on Friday.
Forecasters then expect it will make a U-turn on Saturday and head north again.
Early on Friday, the weather system was about 700 kilometres north-east of Brisbane, with its effects being felt along a long stretch of Queensland’s coastline.
The Bureau of Meteorology’s Queensland office said waves up to 13 metres high had been recorded at Mooloolaba and off Point Lookout. It expected significant beach erosion as a result.
The Volunteer Marine Rescue at Point Danger, on the Queensland-New South Wales border, recorded waves of 10.5 metres early on Friday.
A cyclone watch for southern Queensland and northern NSW was cancelled on Friday morning. But the weather bureau warned of abnormally high tides and danger surf into early next week.
“There are going to be hazardous conditions on our surf and there could be waves up to seven metres over the course of the weekend, and in some instances it may be higher,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Friday.
“We don’t want to put other people’s lives at risk to save you, so please keep off our beaches this weekend.”
“My clear message to families from Sandy Cape all the way down to Coolangatta is ‘don’t go camping, don’t go boating, don’t go fishing, don’t go swimming, and don’t go surfing’.”
Despite those warnings – and the rescue of 43 surfers from the waters off Noosa and Mooloolaba on Thursday afternoon – many surfers have been drawn to the water. Among them world champion surfer Mick Fanning, who hit the waves at Snapper Rock on Friday morning.
“Yesterday the swell came up really quick and today there’s some really nice ones but yeah that wind’s crazy out there now,” Fanning told the ABC.
“It’s been fun. I think everyone’s just frothing out on the waves.”
The big swells caused by Tropical Cyclone Oma have washed the rainbow sands into the ocean at Rainbow Beach near Fraser Island in Queensland.
📸 Rainbow Beach Helicopters pic.twitter.com/h0x1bBYawp
— ABC Emergency (@ABCemergency) February 22, 2019
BoM state manager Bruce Gunn said Oma was 600 kilometres wide – about twice the diameter of Cyclone Debbie, which devastated parts of Queensland in 2017.
“We’re expecting it to continue moving to the south-south-west for the next 24 to 36 hours and regain its category two intensity,” he said.
Some Queensland beaches will be closed as dangerous winds, surf and abnormally high tides continue into the weekend from about Fraser Island down to the NSW border.
Significant erosion to the coastline is being forecast.
The same conditions are expected as far south as Yamba in northern NSW.