The prospect of a cyclone set to develop off Queensland crossing the mainland coast as a category one storm is “starting to come into play”, 7NEWS Brisbane meteorologist Tony Auden says.
And he believes the state’s flood-prone southeast could be spared another serious inundation event, amid fears the system could move south while bringing heavy rain.
WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Northern Queensland communities brace for expected Cyclone Kirrily.
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The system remains a tropical low in the Coral Sea, about 670km northeast of Townsville, at 10am (AEST) on Wednesday, despite predictions it would form early on Tuesday.
It is expected to develop into a cyclone and be named Kirrily on Wednesday, before crossing the coast between Cardwell and Bowen on Thursday night.
Its sluggishness in intensifying means it is unlikely to gather up enough steam to become a severe tropical cyclone (category three and above) when it hits Queensland.
“There’s still plenty of time for it to get to category two before landfall, but category one is starting to come into play now,” Auden said on Wednesday morning.
Millions warned of ‘widespread flooding’ as cyclone’s path becomes clearer
Modelling shows a tropical low expected to develop into Cyclone Kirrily on Wednesday. Credit: Bureau of Meteorology
“We still don’t have a cyclone, but this time the low is intensifying anyway.
“The satellite shows a decent swirl of cloud on the Coral Sea this morning, but it’s still pretty ragged near the system centre.
“Having said that, we do have gale force winds on the southern side of the low, and just need some more cloud to build and wrap those gales around to the northern side to classify as a tropical cyclone.”
Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Laura Boekel all but ruled out the possibility it would cross at category three strength, saying that likelihood was “really diminishing” because the storm “just does not have enough time to get that strength” before it makes landfall.
She said the “most likely scenario” is that it crosses as a category two cyclone.
While it won’t be considered “severe” status, the system is expected to bring gales of up to 120km/h in the Whitsundays as early as Wednesday evening, with that possibility extending to the mainland between Ayr and St Lawrence the following morning.
“We always encourage residents to look at the impact of wind, even with a category two system,” Boekel said.
“Category two winds can certainly bring down large trees, powerlines, things like that.
“Please be aware of all the threats of that come with this system.”
Satellite imagery shows the weather system off Queensland is yet to intensify into a cyclone. Credit: Tony Auden/Facebook
The prospect of significant rainfall leading to “dangerous and life-threatening flooding” also remains, according to the bureau.
“During Friday, the system is expected to become a tropical low and heavy rainfall may develop across central, western and southern Queensland into the weekend as the system tracks inland and then south,” the bureau said in an alert on Wednesday morning.
Auden believes the “remnant low” when the cyclone weakens after making landfall “will head west and take the heaviest rain with it”, with the southern areas of Queensland to possibly avoid the impact.
“We’re still expecting storms in the southeast on Saturday, and some showers or rain on Sunday … but these aren’t directly linked with the low,” he said.
“Flooding is unlikely in the southeast, and the long weekend should have plenty of dry breaks.
“As always, we need to keep on top of the latest forecasts and warning for any changes.”