Wild Weather Batters Australia As 'Zombie Cyclone' Gains Strength

About 17 drivers have been rescued from their cars and trucks in Victoria's north-east as the state is battered with storms and torrential rain. 

Hundreds of people have been stranded in their cars on a flooded Hume Highway, near Wangaratta, with authorities saying some people have heeded warnings about driving in floodwaters.

More than a month's worth of rain has already fallen across north-eastern parts of the state on Thursday, and there's more to come across the state, New South Wales and Queensland.

READ MORE: 'Zombie Storm', Massive Rainfall Set To Hit Australia

A low-pressure system connecting the entire east coast is set to deepen as it draws a lot of tropical moisture from Cyclone Owen that is rapidly gaining strength.

The tropical cyclone formed in the Coral Sea last month and dumped more than 300 mm of rain on Northern Queensland.

It's now back and has been upgraded from a category two to three storm as it hovers over the Northern Territory coastline between Port Roper and Port McArthur, bringing wind gusts of up to 140 km/h near the coast.

A flood watch warning now covers the Gulf of Carpentaria, southern Cape York Peninsula and coastal catchments, from Cape Tribulation to Rainbow Beach.

A wind map showing Cyclone Owen's position on Thursday morning. Image: Earthschool

The storm is expected to grow into a destructive category four before it crosses the Queensland coast on Friday.

Latest forecasts show it could make landfall on the west coast of Cape York Peninsula, bringing rain that could cause flash flooding to the east coast.

The tropical cyclone is impacting must of eastern Australia as a lot of moisture is being pumped from the tropics.

Victoria has seen some heavy falls and flash flooding.

In Melbourne, 48 mm of rain was recorded at Sandringham, in the city's south while Keilor has copped 47 mm.

Rainfall is expected to continue on Friday, with some parts of the state likely to get between 20 and 50 mm. The Gippsland Coast and Otway Ranges could be hit with more than 100mm.

READ MORE: Commuter Chaos As Wild Weather Smashes Sydney

The low pressure system began to enter the far-west of New South Wales on Thursday afternoon.

Severe thunderstorm warnings are in place for destructive winds, hail and rainfall across central and eastern parts of the state.

With Queensland still recovering from its recent bushfire crisis, it's once again on emergency footing as Cyclone Owen builds strength.

Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Richard Wardle said there was a risk of storms "embedded in cyclones".

"Certainly a lot of Queensland will be impacted by rain in the next couple of days, either in the north with Owen, or in the southern interior and southeast with thunderstorms," he said.

The state's disaster centre has been activated, and its committee will continue to meet as the cyclone nears.

Extra rescue and emergency crews have been sent into the cyclone warning area, while police have warned holidaymakers heading to coastal destinations to be wary of wild weather.

With AAP. 

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