East Coast Lows in Australia: Cause of Our Wild Weather

You may remember that a couple years ago my wife did something which I regarded as totally insane, she went on a 55 km walk.

55k walk 001Afterwards, she promised herself she would never do it again as she nursed her aching feet and pined for her missing toenails. This year the organisers, Oxfam Trailwalker Australia, changed the route to make it 60 km.

Ah, that’s a new challenge!” said Mrs Bob. So tomorrow she is doing it again with three of her friends.

Ironically though, about two weeks ago the inspection team went through the planned route and deemed that extra 5 km as too dangerous, so the walk has now been reduced back down to 55 km again. Of course, her and her team are all booked in now and they have been training for it, so they are not going to pull out.

On Sunday I will be jumping into my car and setting off on a road trip, my first stop will be Bundaberg on the east coast of Queensland about 400 km north. I’ll tell you more about that next week, but as you can see, we’ve got a busy weekend.

But there’s a problem.

You will remember that a couple weeks ago Extremely Wild Weather Smashed Australia’s South-East Coast. This is the path it took at that time…

Well, it turns out the weather event that caused the chaos has a name and not only that, the forecast is that we are going to get bashed by another one this weekend.

East coast low (ECL)

Australian east coast lows (known locally as east coast lows and sometimes as east coast cyclones) are extratropical cyclones. The most intense of these systems have many of the characteristics of subtropical cyclones. They develop between 25° south and 40° south and within 5° of the Australian coastline, typically during the winter months. Each year there are about ten “significant impact” maritime lows.‘ -Source Wikipedia.

Yes, these things are called an ‘east coast low’ and they most commonly occur in June. Seems we have another one on the way which is expected to hit us sometime around Saturday and continue through to Sunday when it may even intensify. According to the news, parts of south-east Queensland could expect to receive up to 150 mm of rain.

However, ECL’s are apparently unpredictable, so nobody knows for sure what might happen.

The SES, that’s the State Emergency Services in Australia, were called out to hundreds of flood rescues two weeks ago. This weekend they are advising people to stay in if they can and not to drive through floodwaters.

The problem for Mrs Bob and her team and all of the charity walkers for tomorrow, would be getting across the many creeks that are on the route. Quite often these creeks are dry, but since the rains of two weeks ago they are now 30 cm (1 foot) high in some places and with more rain could get even higher.

My problem would be how to drive from Brisbane to Bundaberg without coming across any floodwaters. It’s going to be an interesting weekend that could end up with the walk being cancelled and or me delaying my road trip by a day.

We shall see what happens.

For some people though, an East Coast low is nothing more than a challenge. It’s time to grab a surfboard and go and catch some waves…

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