Tropical Cyclone Owen – UPDATE #7

Department of the Chief Minister

Tropical Cyclone Owen – UPDATE #7

13 December 2018

Thursday, 13 December 2018
Issued at: 0845hrs CST

Tropical Cyclone Owen has intensified to a Category 3 system as it sits just off the coast of Bing Bong (Port McArthur).

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) says TC Owen has been near stationary along the Gulf of Carpentaria’s south west coast for the past couple of hours. Sustained winds of around 150 kilometres per hour have been recorded at the eye of the cyclone.

“The advice that we have from the Bureau of Meteorology is that TC Owen will develop further as it straddles the coast this morning before it starts moving towards Queensland later today,” Regional Controller Travis Wurst said.

“We’ve been told it could intensify to a Category 4 system in the next six hours.

“Because the system has slowed down and is staying in the area, we’ve been in contact with the community at Ngukurr to ensure that locals are prepared for the strong winds in the region.

A Warning is in place for Numbulwar in the Northern Territory through to Aurukun in Queensland, including Borroloola. A Warning for the area between Alyangula and Numbulwar, including Groote Eylandt has been cancelled. There is a Watch in place for parts of Queensland from Karumba to Coen.

“No-one took up the option of staying in the Numbulwar public shelter overnight, but we’re leaving it open just in case. The shelters at Borroloola are also still open and we’ve had around 125 people access them since last night. There are no current plans to open public shelters at Ngukurr.

“Schools in those areas are closed while the buildings are being used as shelters. We want people heading to those shelters to bring their cyclone kits with them, including food and bedding.”

Areas along the coast are forecast to receive rainfalls of between 20 and 30 millimetres per hour. This could lead to falls of 120 to 200mms which could see flash flooding in the region.

Gale force winds are predicted along the coast and for Borroloola later today, with the possibility of destructive winds.

“People in the region can expect to see power failures, roof and structure damage and destroy caravans.

“If it gets up to a Category 4 system, that would mean there would be destructive to very destructive winds, which can see significant building damage. Caravans could be blown away and there could be dangerous airborne debris and widespread power failures.

“The southern end of Groote Eylandt had the most wind overnight with estimated gusts of around 90 – 125 kilometres per hour knocking down some trees and there was a small amount of rain, less than 50 millimetres,” Regional Controller Wurst said.

The advice from emergency services is not to travel in the area unless it is to a public ashelter. Motorists should slow down, turn on their lights and drive to conditions.

People in the region should finalise their cyclone plans and preparations as soon as possible and take shelter as conditions deteriorate.

A list of what residents should include in their emergency kit can be found on the Northern Territory Emergency Service website: http://www.pfes.nt.gov.au/Emergency-Service/Public-safety-advice/Household-emergency-planning.aspx

Cyclone preparedness information is available at SecureNT: https://securent.nt.gov.au/prepare-for-an-emergency/cyclones

For more information on weather warnings go to the BoM website: http://www.bom.gov.au/nt/warnings

Media Contact
Jessica Tapp

0476 835 348

A drier than average start to the wet season likely for Nhulunbuy this year

If you thought it has been dry lately, you are absolutely right! Currently as of Tuesday, November 20 it has been 95 consecutive days since any measurable rain has fallen into the official rain gauge located at the BOM office near Gove Airport.

This is the second longest stretch in history since the Bureau office opened in 1986 second only to the year 2014 when 104 days went by without any rain falling into the gauge.  If you wanted to find the next closest stretch that was this dry, you’d have to go all the way back to the year 1986 when 83 days went by without rain.

November is traditionally one of the driest months of the year averaging only 3.6mm and is part of the “build up” to the wet season, and it is not uncommon for the whole month of November to go by without any rain being recorded.  The years 2015 and 2016 were the most recent times when Gove had no rain recorded for November.

The reason for the likely drier than average start to the wet is because of two main factors.  The first is because we are currently in what’s known as a positive phase of the “Indian Ocean Dipole” which comes about when the sea surface temperatures in the Indian Ocean off northwest WA and the Top End are cooler than normal for this time of year.  Cooler than normal sea temperatures in this area usually results in less cloudiness and thus less rainfall during the early part of the wet season, however this IOD (Indian Ocean Dipole) should return back to neutral values by the end of the month.

The second reason, is a likely “El Nino” developing in the Pacific Ocean.  During an El Nino, much warmer than normal waters develop off the west coast of South America, while cooler than normal waters exist off the north Queensland coast, usually resulting in a drier than normal wet season for most parts of QLD and parts of the NT.

So, in a nutshell if it doesn’t rain before Thursday next week, it will be the longest dry spell on record since the met office opened in 1986.  Currently, the Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting only a very low chance of rain between today (November 20) through until Monday next week and a slight/medium chance of rain next Tuesday.

Cameron Hines
OIC Gove Meteorological Information Office
Bureau of Meteorology
PO Box 1396 Nhulunbuy NT 0881
Melville Bay Road, Gove Airport (Western Side) NT 0880
Tel: +61 8 8987 2477