Tropical Cyclone Oma to batter New Caledonia into midweek, New Zealand and Australia on alert

By Eric Leister, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
February 19, 2019, 11:25:01 AM EST

After battering parts of Vanuatu with heavy rain and gusty winds last week, Tropical Cyclone Oma will unleash dangerous weather on New Caledonia into Wednesday.

While a direct landfall did not occur, Oma will track just west and southwest of New Caledonia’s Grand Terre Island into Wednesday, bringing strong winds and torrential rainfall to western parts of the island.

Oma is currently a Category 3 tropical cyclone on the Fiji scale, with 10-minute sustained winds near 130 km/h (80 mph). This is equal to a Category 1 hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean.

OmaRain 2/19

Wind gusts of 80-115 km/h (50-70 mph) can whip the northwestern tip of Grand Terre into Wednesday morning. Residents of Poum, Tiabet and Ouegoa should prepare for prolonged power outages.

While damaging winds are likely to be confined to far northwest New Caledonia, rainfall will be a more widespread impact of Oma on New Caledonia.

Rainfall of 75-150 mm (3-6 inches) had already fallen across western parts of the island as of Tuesday evening with local amounts up to 250 mm (10 inches). A general 25-75 mm (1-3 inches) had fallen in central and eastern parts of the island.

Additional downpours are expected across the island into Wednesday morning.

Flooding and mudslides can be triggered, including along the streams and rivers that flow out of the mountains.

OmaRisk 2/19

Oma will press southward through midweek, taking the storm to the southwest of New Caledonia and lessening impacts to the island by late Wednesday.

Despite Oma departing, boaters and swimmers should continue to avoid entering the water due to dangerously rough surf and rip currents.

Dangerously rough seas will be stirred across the waters surrounding New Caledonia on Wednesday and Thursday, continuing the risk for fishing and commercial vessels in area.

Tropical Cyclone Oma loop

(Satellite loop/NOAA)

After threatening New Caledonia, Oma will shift its focus elsewhere and may bring significant impacts to New Zealand or Australia by this weekend.

One scenario is that Oma tracks westward later this week, targets the coast of southern Queensland and/or New South Wales in Australia around the weekend.

If Oma tracks near or into the coast of Australia it will be bring the risk for significant flooding and damaging winds.

Another possibility is that Oma may stall off the coast, causing rough surf but bringing little or no rainfall to Australia.

In addition to the risk for rough surf there will be an elevated risk for coastal flooding due to onshore flow and ongoing King Tides.

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Another scenario is that Oma tracks southward and loses its tropical characteristics but still targets New Zealand with heavy rain and strong winds this weekend.

Widespread travel disruptions along with the risk for localized flooding and power outages will be possible if this occurs.

Anyone with interest in New Zealand, Queensland or New South Wales, should closely monitor the track of Oma in the coming days.

Download the free AccuWeather app for the latest information on Oma and to remain alert of any hazardous weather expected in your area.

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