Dry lightning, potential cyclone could add to fire-hit Queensland's woes

Dry lightning, potential cyclone could add to fire-hit Queensland's woes
Dry lightning, potential cyclone could add to fire-hit Queensland's woes

Authorities say Sunday will be a day of vigilance for fire-ravaged parts of Queensland amid the threat of blazes caused by lightning and the possibility of a tropical cyclone brewing in the northern Coral Sea.

Key points: Severe to extreme fire danger warnings will be in place across the state, with an added threat from dry thunderstorms BOM is monitoring a low pressure system in the northern Coral Sea which could develop into a tropical cyclone Increased fire danger is anticipated for the Central Highlands, Coalfields, Darling Downs, Granite Belt and Wide Bay-Burnett regions

As 110 fires continue to burn around the state, the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has warned it could be three or four days before relief arrives, with no significant rain on the horizon in central Queensland.

But thunderstorms without rain are a very real possibility, which could mean an increased chance of fires started by dry lightning.

"[Tomorrow there] is the chance of dry lightning — thunderstorms that don't produce much rain and the lightning can occur outside the rain area — with the potential to start more fires," BOM spokesman Bruce Gunn said.

"While we're not expecting to see any severe thunderstorms anywhere in the state, we are expecting the chance of dry lightning, possibly starting and igniting fires."

Meanwhile, a low pressure system in the northern Coral Sea is being monitored by the BOM, who rate it as a "greater than 50 per cent chance" of forming into a tropical cyclone.

"If it reaches a tropical cyclone intensity, its name will be Owen," Mr Gunn said.

"It's a very uncertain situation, and the impacts on the Queensland coast are hard to predict at this stage. It's just something to keep aware of.

"I think the more clear and present threat is the fire danger and the heatwave over the next few days."

Mr Gunn said greater vigilance would be required for large parts of the state on Sunday, due to a trough system moving through the state, increased wind conditions combined with the heat and an already dry fuel state.

"This exceptional heat and fire event just keeps continuing, the records are just too numerous to mention here," he said.

"We're expecting an increase in the fire dangers for the south-eastern quarter, going to severe fire danger levels, and that includes the Central Highlands and Coalfields, Darling Downs and Granite Belt, Maranoa, Warrego, and inland parts of the south-east coast and Widebay Burnett."

'We're not out of the woods yet'

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said most of the state should be prepared for severe or extreme fire danger.

"This is about everyone listening to the authorities, making sure we're prepared, making sure our neighbours are hydrated, making sure people are drinking lots of water," she said.

Ms Palaszczuk spent Saturday visiting Finch Hatton and Eungella, west of Mackay, and praised response crews' actions in helping residents.

"That township up there, it changed quite dramatically. We were able to take to people on the ground where the response was absolutely exceptional," she said.

"The help that's there today in terms of people delivering water and goods and supplies … it was wonderful to see the residents now safe."

Video 2:22 Rescue helicopter airlifts families off mountain

ABC News

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services spokesperson Katarina Carroll said the days ahead remained "concerning" for Queenslanders.

"We're not out of the woods yet. There are still some concerning days ahead, particularly for our firefighters on the ground and our planners, as to how we deal with these issues," she said.

"There are still some 110 fires around the state, 400 vehicles on the ground, up to 20 aircraft in the air and we have 410 interstaters with us assisting us with this."

Saturday was marred by tragedy when a 21-year-old man died after being hit by a falling tree in central Queensland.

He was trying to clear a fire break on his family's property at Rolleston on the Central Highlands, west of Gladstone.

Police said three men tried to save him but he died at the scene.

Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack, who visited affected areas north of Bundaberg on Saturday, said it was a tragic incident for a young man with his whole life ahead of him.

"We mourn with those people, we grieve with their community, we don't want to see any more tragedies," he said.

Queensland Police spokesman Bob Gee implored communities to look out for one another.

"It's been a long week but we expect another long three or four days, so I just encourage the community to look after each other."

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