Environment

Tropical Cyclone “Owen” sets new Australian December daily rainfall record

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Tropical Cyclone “Owen” brought extremely heavy rains to parts of Queensland, setting a new Australian December daily rainfall.

Owen made its first landfall well north of Cardwell, Queensland early December 10, exited into the Gulf of Carpentaria and started reorganizing. 

The storm then completed an anti-cyclonic loop and turned back to the east, toward Queensland. It gradually began to intensify, peaking as a Category 3 severe tropical cyclone with maximum 10-minute sustained winds of 150 km/h (90 mph).

It made its second landfall approximately 70 km (43 miles) south of Kowanyama around 03:00 LT, December 15 as a low-end Category 3 severe tropical cyclone and gradually weakened to a tropical low due to land interaction.

Tropical Cyclone “Owen” track. Credit: Wikimedia


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According to data provided by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, communities between Cairns and Townsville have experienced more than 500 mm (9.6 inches) of rain in just 24 hours.

Halifax (near Ingham) received 681 mm (26.8 inches) of rain in the 24 hours to 09:00 LD, December 16. Of the total amount, 122 mm (4.84 inches) fell in only one hour. 394 mm (15.5 inches) was recorded in the six hours to 13:00 LT, December 16.

Halifax was one of four locations in the area to record 24-hour rainfall totals exceeding, or near, 500 mm (9.6 inches) in 24 hours. Cardwell Range recorded 552 mm (21.7 inches), Lucinda recorded 500 mm (9.6 inches) and Ingham 485 mm (19.09 inches). Townsville saw 138 mm (5.43 inches), while around the Cairns area totals ranged from about 50 mm (1.96 inches) to above 100 mm (3.93 inches).

The totals represent new daily rainfall records for both Halifax and Cardwell Range, while Lucinda recorded its highest rainfall total for a December day, BOM meteorologists said.

“The heaviest falls are expected to continue easing over the next two days, however coastal communities between Mackay and the northern Wide Bay are still likely to experience heavy rain,” meteorologist Richard Wardle said December 16.

Flooding has closed many roads north of Ingham and motorists have been told to avoid traveling on the Bruce Highway between Cairns and Townsville.

While not related to ex-Tropical Cyclone “Owen,” southeast Queensland also experienced significant rainfall. Totals for the 24 hours to 09:00 LT include 157 mm (6.18 miles) at Pomona, 58 mm (2.28 miles) at Ipswich and 91 mm (3.58 miles) at Mt Nebo. 

Featured image: Tropical Cyclone “Owen” over Queensland, Australia on December 15, 2018. Credit: NASA Terra/MODIS





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