NEWS

Tropical Cyclone Debbie 'Intensifying' On Track For Queensland Coast

The weather bureau is forecasting the cyclone to barrel into the mainland.

25/03/2017 11:50 AM AEDT | Updated 25/03/2017 7:19 PM AEDT
NASA NASA / Reuters
A tropical cyclone has formed off the Queensland coast and track towards the mainland.

Residents in northern Queensland face an anxious wait with authorities confirming that a tropical cyclone formed in the Coral Sea on Saturday.

There is currently a tropical cyclone advice in place for areas between Cape Tribulation and St Lawrence in the state's far north, including Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, and the Whitsunday Islands.

Queenslanders posted pictures on social media of empty shelves as residents were urged to prepare for the cyclone.

The Category 1 cyclone, named Debbie, is currently about 650 kilometres east of Cairns and 580 kilometres east northeast of Townsville. The system is moving slowly towards the mainland coast, with wind gusts at the centre of the system of up to 95 kilometres per hour.

While Category 1 is the lowest cyclone rating, the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) is not ruling out Debbie intensifying into a Category 5 cyclone.

At this stage, BoM predicts that Debbie will reach Category 2 or 3 strength on Sunday, with the most likely time for a coastal crossing late Monday or Tuesday.

"The tropical low over the central Coral Sea has recently developed into Tropical Cyclone Debbie," BoM said on its website.

"The system has been moving slowly southwards overnight, but has recently shown signs of shifting onto a west-southwest track ... bringing the cyclone towards the north Queensland coast.

"Conditions are expected to favour the continued intensification of the cyclone as it approaches the coast over the weekend and into early next week."

BoM said the weather system was not expected to cause gales on the Queensland coast on Saturday, but that wild weather could develop develop between Cape Tribulation and St Lawrence, including the Whitsunday Islands, on Sunday.

"Based on the current forecast track, abnormally high tides are expected to occur between at least Lucinda and Mackay as the cyclone approaches the coast. Large waves may also develop along the beachfront," BoM added.

Heavy rain was also forecast for parts of northern and central Queensland coast regions into Sunday, with a flood watch current for coastal catchments between Cooktown and Mackay.

Queensland Deputy Police Commissioner Steve Gollschewski warned residents to prepare for an extended period of bad weather due to Debbie.

"All the preparation and planning is well advanced both at a local and state level for us to be able to respond to this event no matter what transpires," he told reporters in Brisbane.

"People do need to prepare now and they need to be thinking and remaining connected to what is being said in the media and more broadly.

"Some of the preparations that people can consider is having their medications, the food, the supplies they may need for a protracted event, this may go on for some days."

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