Chance of a cyclone to increase next week: BOM
"SOME people are only worried about losing a few tourists if they hype up a cyclone, but for us it's the difference between surviving and losing lives if we're not warned about a possible cyclone early enough."
These are the words from owner of St Bees Island, Phil Webb, who has hit back after a TV report this week warned people against taking early cyclone advice from "amateur weather forecasters".
"What about people living on islands and at sea? It's all right for people safe and sound on the mainland, but on an island we require sufficient notice," Mr Webb said.
"Last night when Channel 7 Livio's Weather Report had 25 to 30 knot winds, it was 65kmh here and Hamilton Island. That's 36 knots, with seas unsafe for any vessel, fresh to frightening as they say with a strong wind warning all week."
Mr Webb said he listened to any weather report that warned people of a potential cyclone, saying he needs at least a week to prepare his island and move his boats to the mainland.
"What if a cyclone does develop this weekend? It's already too late to take boats to the safety of Mackay Marina with huge seas and strong winds already here.
"Around St Bees, the seas and strong winds are at least five knots stronger than forecast."
Weather Update on the continuing active weather across tropical northern Australia. Video current at 3pm AEST, Wednesday 7 March 2018. Check https://t.co/aJc3xtBMaS for the latest weather warnings, and follow advice from your local emergency services and health departments. pic.twitter.com/oou0JiNEIO— Bureau of Meteorology, Australia (@BOM_au) March 7, 2018
The latest outlook
The chance of tropical cyclone forming in the Gulf of Carpentaria this weekend has been downgraded from moderate to low, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.
Forecasters said the chance of a cyclone lashing the northern region is now at 5-20 per cent for this weekend, but the possibility of one developing would increase next week.
"The chance of a cyclone forming this weekend in the Gulf of Carpentaria has decreased from (Wednesday's) outlook, as the focus now shifts to early next week," a BOM spokesman told the Cairns Post.
If a tropical cyclone does form next week, it will be the first tropical cyclone in the northern region for the 2017/2018 season and will be named Linda.
Looking ahead using weather forecasting service Windy TV, their model shows a number of lows forming off the coast of Queensland between now and next Sunday, March 18.
If you scroll ahead to Sunday March 18 on the below interactive map, you'll see a particularly intense tropical low/cyclone-like formation north of Townsville.
For Mr Webb, the St Bees Island owner gets his weather warnings from the bureau itself, as well as the Great Barrier Reef marine offshore forecast and Central Coast weather.
"The BOM cover themselves saying 'winds and waves may be 40% more than forecast' but there must be a cyclone warning before the strong winds and seas rise," he said.
"We usually have a look at which day the weather looks to turn bad and then get prepared before the wind picks up too strong."
Last year during Cyclone Debbie, Mr Webb spent days preparing the island before taking his two vessels over to Mackay Marina.
The trip takes about two hours on average, with St Bees located about 30km - "or 16 nautical miles" - from Mackay.
"My boat was even damaged in the marina but it was safer than it would have been at St Bees," Mr Webb said.
The manager lives on the island with his partner, her son and two caretakers. The island is listed for sale for $1.95 million, and Mr Webb said despite having "no offers" just yet, he's hoping he can retire to the mainland soon and be done with being at the mercy of the weather out on the island.
"Our life around here is dependent on the weather and the tides," he said.
"I want to retire - I'm in my 70s... if there wasn't so much happening I'd retire here but it takes a lot of work actually - that's why we have two workers here. I can't do it all myself."