Weather News

Tropical Cyclone Iris stirs off north Queensland coast as category two system

Tuesday April 3, 2018 - 20:52 EST
ABC licensed image
Tropical Cyclone Iris is moving slowly south-east about 6 kilometres per hour. - ABC licensed
ABC licensed image
The BOM tracking map for Tropical Cyclone Iris on Tuesday night. - ABC licensed

Tropical Cyclone Iris has intensified to be a category two system and is starting to speed up as it moves southwards in a line roughly parallel to the north Queensland coast.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said at 7:00pm on Tuesday the cyclone was 320 kilometres east north-east of Townsville.

It was moving south south-east at about 14 kilometres per hour, with a cyclone warning in place from Bowen to St Lawrence, and a cyclone watch south from St Lawrence to Yeppoon.

The system is expected to strengthen further and is on track to turn into a category three by Wednesday afternoon.

Forecaster Dean Narramore said areas between Ayr and Mackay could see winds of up to 125 kilometres per hour and heavy rain.

"We could see a couple of hundred millimetres of rain — we've already seen 150 millimetres inland of Mackay, we could see that again if not more," he said.

On Monday, forecasters warned far north Queensland , but on Tuesday the warning zones shifted further south.

Towns expected to be most impacted are between Ayr and Sarina, including the Whitsunday Islands.

The cyclone will continue moving slowly south, parallel to the Queensland coast, but it is still not predicted to make landfall.

Meanwhile, deteriorating conditions forced a rescue helicopter to turn back after trying to reach a German backpacker stranded on Gloucester Island off the North Queensland coast.

Whitsunday water police have spoken to the man who is in good spirits, with authorities planning to check on him again either Wednesday or Thursday

Marinas and ports across Mackay and the Whitsundays are closed and have cancelled transport services as a result of rough seas.

The Whitsunday Coast Airport remains open, however several flights into Hamilton Island have been cancelled.

Kristy Haslam runs the Proserpine Motel and Guest House and is worried about Cyclone Iris because rooms took serious damage during ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie.

"I am starting to see some more water damage around the rooms that are operating," he said.

"I'm just hoping that we can get it fixed in time or we that we don't get severe wind so that it causes us more hassles.

"We'll batten down the hatches as much as possible and pray, that's all we can do."

'Tuesday the time to move,' authorities say

State disaster coordinator Bob Gee said the cyclone was "unpredictable" and people travelling in the warning zones should make alternative plans.

"The message today clearly is if you need to move, today [Tuesday] is the day to move," he said.

He has assured the public they had "thought ahead" when pre-deploying emergency personnel.

"We have more than sufficient resources on the ground in terms of police, fire and emergency services all the way from Bowen through into Mackay and all the way down to St Lawrence," Mr Gee said.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she had spoken with local mayors and they were "comfortable" with the level of preparations.

"Our councils have been through this before," she said.

On Monday, the Queensland Government assured people it was well prepared for the weather event despite a number of Queensland's emergency service members being stationed on the Gold Coast ahead of the start of the Commonwealth Games on Wednesday.

Ms Palaszczuk said she was confident with the planning around the cyclone coinciding with the start of the Commonwealth Games.

"We have been planning for the likelihood if there were two events … when we are confronted with natural disasters we pull together," she said.

Mackay Mayor Greg Williamson said the region only expected localised flooding but residents should take precautions in case the system tracks closer to the coast.

"We're in north Queensland — it rains — and we're going to get a fairly decent amount of rain over the next 24 hours, we know that," he said.

"It's safe to say that we've had our teams working for two or three days monitoring this and that's just a case of being prepared."

Whitsunday Mayor Andrew Willcox said the severe winds gusts could impact residents and businesses owners whose properties were still being repaired after Cyclone Debbie.

"What we're most concerned about is the people who haven't had their house repaired from Tropical Cyclone Debbie," he said.

"Obviously they'll be more vulnerable so we're suggesting that they give the SES a call, if they need any assistance with tarping or if they have any issues with roof damage."

Mackay disaster district coordinator Superintendent Bruce McNab said tourists holidaying or camping in the region should consider making travel plans before the weather worsens.


© ABC 2018

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