Cyclone Owen expected off FNQ coast
A TROPICAL low hanging over the Coral Sea is expected to develop into a cyclone within 12 hours and gradually move towards the Far North Queensland coastline.
Bureau of Meteorology forecaster David Crock said there was a good chance the low would become a cyclone tonight and move very slowly southwest for a couple of days.
"It looks like weakening by Tuesday and Wednesday," he said.
"By that stage it should still be a very long way from the coast.
"There's no real threat of a cyclone hitting the coast at this stage."
It may lose some of its power, but the weather system is expected to dump much-needed rainfall on the coast.
Mr Crock said hot temperatures in the mid-30s would remain until the middle of the week, when an onshore southeast flow would bring showers.
In a statement, the bureau said the potential cyclone had already been named.
"We're carefully monitoring a tropical low east-southeast of Papua New Guinea," it said.
"The low is forecast to move in a south-westerly direction while developing further over the next three days.
"At this stage, it's expected to enter Australia's area of responsibility during Sunday, (well offshore of the Queensland coast), with a moderate (20-50 per cent) chance of developing into a tropical cyclone.
"If it does develop into a tropical cyclone it will be named 'Owen'.
"The size and direction of tropical cyclones can change very quickly, so it's still much too early to say exactly where the system will move to as it develops early next week."
Cairns Regional Council Deputy Mayor and Local Disaster Management Group chairman Terry James said preparations were in place for whatever eventuated.
"We're on alert, so we are just keeping an eye on things at the moment," he said.
"The alert is what they call a heightened level of vigilance due to the possibility of an event - no action is required at this stage."
The LDMG held its annual exercise last year with all emergency services agencies together at the Cairns Local Disaster Co-ordination Center in Woree to run through a fictitious event.
"It keeps everybody up to speed with all of the processes and software," he said.
"So in the event something does break, it's all on front of our minds."
Cairns is still expected to hit Level 2 water restrictions next week after months of dry weather as Copperlode Dam dips towards 70 per cent capacity.
Cr James hoped any rainfall happened where it was needed.
"If we don't get it in the right spot, we will go to Level 2 next week," he said.
"It's much the same every year at this time.
"We go right to the limit, and then the rain kicks in.
"But we're not expecting any reasonable rain until late-January or early-February."
Preparation is the name of the game.
"All we can say to people is to be alert and have a look around your yard," Cr James said.
"If it does look like turning into something more than predicted, you need to have a plan in place."
The tropical low currently has sustained winds near the centre of about 55km/h with wind gusts to 85km/h.
The eye of the storm remains about 1000km off the coastline, moving south-southwest at 13km/h.
"The system will continue drifting south until Monday afternoon or evening, and is then expected to turn and move slowly west," the bureau stated.
"It is expected to intensify further during this time.
"However, this system poses no immediate threat to the Queensland coast, and should remain well off the coast until it weakens later in the week."