CYCLONE Dylan has been downgraded to a tropical low, with farmers in Queensland’s parched central-west hoping it will deliver some respite.
North Queensland communities appear to have escaped any significant damage from the category 2 cyclone, which crossed the coast near Hideaway Bay, between Bowen and Airlie Beach, about 3.30am (AEST) today.
There are still some concerns about localised flooding further south in the Mackay area, on the peak of this morning’s king tide.
An emergency alert has been issued for residents in low-lying parts of Mackay, with the potential for properties to be affected between 9.30am and 1pm.
Forecasters say the ex-cyclone is likely to reach Queensland’s central west later in the day, but drought-breaking rain is unlikely.
“I don’t think you’re going to see extremely heavy falls. There will be some moderate, maybe the odd heavy falls, but certainly we’re looking at rainfall totals between 20mm and 50mm for some inland parts,” forecaster Chris Joseph told the ABC.
“Through the course of the night, into tomorrow, we’ll see rainfall extend further west through much of the central west and northern parts of the Maranoa, Warrego.” Meanwhile, some north Queensland residents are feeling lucky after what one seasoned resident called a “lame” cyclone.
“It’s put a lot of branches on the ground and it was a bit of a restless night but overall I think it was quite lame compared to the other ones,” Hideaway Bay caravan park owner Paul Willcocks told the ABC.
“It’s the third eye that’s actually come over us in the last three years so I’m hoping probability is on our side now and it won’t happen again.” Premier Campbell Newman said the main issue is damage to roads, but he said the silver lining would be any rain the system delivered to parched inland communities.
“We just hope they get some decent falls … for significant areas of the state,” he said.
But central Queensland graziers are not expecting drought-breaking rain from ex-Cyclone Dylan.
While any rain is welcome, farmers are not expecting it to make much of a difference, Northern Gulf Graziers Group chairman Barry Hughes says.
“One rainfall event won’t make a difference. There needs to be prolonged rain,” Mr Hughes told AAP.
“We didn’t get any rain during the December/January period and we have one month left (before hitting the typically dry season).” He said graziers across the state, in particular in the lower part of the Gulf of Carpentaria, are desperate, relying on emergency fodder and water or resorting to killing cattle.
Meatworks are also being inundated as farmers try to offload their cattle, pushing meat prices down.
“Without any rainfall, there’s no grass and cattle need to be sold off,” Mr Hughes said.
“This has put enormous pressure on the domestic market, pushing prices down.” Mr Hughes and graziers will meet with federal and state agricultural ministers in St George, more than 500km west of Brisbane, on Saturday to discuss more assistance for farmers.
Meanwhile, the BoM has defended its handling of cyclone warnings, saying it didn’t have the resources to issue a specific warning about Cyclone Dylan crossing the north Queensland coast.
The category two storm made landfall about 3.30am, but the bureau didn’t update its formal cyclone advice to reflect that until just before 5am.
Senior forecaster Brett Harrison explained that anyone watching the bureau’s live radar would have seen, in real time, the storm making landfall.
He also said bureau staff had done a series of media interviews about the cyclone crossing over land, and pointed out that the bureau had been warning for days that the storm was on its way. But he said it would be nice if the bureau had the capacity to issue formal advice more frequently than the three-hourly cycle used during the latest cyclone event.
“Ideally we would love to issue more regular warnings, particularly when it is a significant time in terms of having it crossing the coast,” he told the ABC.
“Unfortunately we don’t have the resources to issue those sort of warnings more regularly than that.” The ABC said the delay in updating the official advice meant some of its stations in the cyclone zone were reading from an out-of-date alert.
Just before 5am they were relying on a 2am alert that still positioned the cyclone offshore.
BoM’s regional weather services manager Richard Wardle said lessons could be learned from the incident.
“If there is confusion in the community it may be that there’s an expectation of having a warning issued as soon as the tropical cyclone crosses the coast,” he said.
“That’s not actually the current level of service that we provide, but it’s something that we can look at.” ABC presenter Spencer Howson said newsreaders had no choice but to read the earlier warning.
“Well over an hour after it crossed the coast, they could do nothing but read from what was essentially an out-of-date warning,” he said.
Premier Campbell Newman says he’s concerned about the delay and has approached the federal government about the issue.
Mr Newman also expressed relief that the damage appeared to be so light.
“Certainly (it’s) good news for us,” he said.
“The silver lining out of these sort of events is when you get some good rain,” Mr Newman said.
“So let’s think of the farmers and hope they get … rain out of this. We just hope they get some decent falls … for significant areas of the state.”
He urged people to stay safe and not to cross flooded routes. “Don’t try and cross those creek crossings. If it’s flooded, forget it,” he told the ABC.
Earlier, north Queensland residents were preparing to evacuate in the face of torrential rain and strong wind gusts.
Evacuation centres were opened at Bowen and Airlie Beach, with residents in low-lying areas warned the rain could combine with a king tide peak to flood some areas.
Additional reporting: AAP