‘Intensified’: Qld cyclone danger upgraded
A mayor of a Far North Queensland region says the community is bracing for a disaster on two fronts amid a coronavirus threat in shelters as tropical cyclone Kimi is upgraded to a category 2.
Residents in areas between Innisfail and Ayr, including Lucinda, Palm Island and Townsville, have been warned to prepare property to be lashed by the storm.
"It is currently moving south-southeast and is likely to continue this movement through tonight but is now expected to slow and stall off the coast between Hinchinbook Island and Townsville on Tuesday while beginning to weaken," the bureau warned on Monday about 2.30pm AEST.
Mark Nolan, the mayor of Cassowary Coast Regional Council, which includes Innisfail, said the region had been preparing for the possibility of needing to social distance in emergency evacuation centres in the event of a damaging tropical cyclone this season.
"We started planning six months ago because we knew that if we did get a tropical storm visit then we'd have to deal with COVID and the storm," he told NCA NewsWire on Monday afternoon.
#CycloneKimi has intensified to a Category 2 system as it moves south. Warning zone Innisfail to Ayr, including Lucinda, Palm Island and Townsville. Impacts destructive winds and heavy rainfall. Flood Watch current. Latest cyclone advice https://t.co/nerM2THR4s #QLDweather 🌀🌀🌀 pic.twitter.com/icPqSCuWeO— Bureau of Meteorology, Queensland (@BOM_Qld) January 18, 2021
"Because it's a small cyclone, it won't complicate things in terms of having to open up cyclone shelters, but if it was a big cyclone and we opened up the shelters then we would have to manage how many could fit in there.
"So capacity was going to become an issue."
Mr Nolan said the community wasn't panicking because it had become accustomed to much larger cyclone threats, such as Yasi in 2011, but it was on high alert due to the risk of flooding.
"The big threat is rain, there's no doubt about that," he said.
"Our area is saturated from cyclone Imogen, with the remnants of which came through a few days ago and we've had plenty of rain.
"With the saturation of our fields and agriculture sector, we are acutely aware that whatever rain Kimi brings is going to be our biggest challenge."
The update comes as a major Cairns shopping centre closed its doors earlier on Monday with the region preparing for the cyclone to hit land.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said residents needed to listen to the bureau and keep an eye on flood warnings.
"I know that people up in the north are very well prepared when it comes to cyclones … They know how to deal with these," she said.
"They are very, very well prepared … Please listen to the bureau. We'll be keeping everyone updated."
Forecaster Alex Majchrowski said the system was expected to further intensify to a category 2 as it approached the coast on Monday afternoon.
"There is a chance that the system could stay offshore for longer and cross the coast further south," he said.
"It's a compact system and it can be difficult to forecast, that's why we have people watching it closely."
Destructive winds with gusts up to 130 km/h could develop on Monday evening or early Tuesday, and heavy rainfall with the potential to cause flash flooding and major river flooding is expected to affect the coast.
Mr Majchrowski said falls of 100-300mm were likely in the cyclone watch area.
"We could even see falls heavier than that, especially if thunderstorms develop as they wrap around the system," he said.
As of 11am Monday, the bureau said the cyclone was moving south at 12km/h and was 90km east of Cairns and 250km north of Townsville.
A cyclone warning is active for Port Douglas to Ayr.
State disaster co-ordinator Steve Gollschewski said anyone in the area should look at their local arrangements, including sandbagging, and think ahead.
"We have had significant rain in parts of those areas recently, so we have very wet catchments … So we're watching very closely the flood levels and we'll be issuing alerts as they come through," he said.
"This is the time for preparation … And, if it's flooded, forget it."
The state disaster committee will meet again at 3.30pm on Monday, and the Premier will provide another update at 4pm.
As a result of the cyclone warning, Cairns Central shopping centre was closed on Monday.
"Cairns Central centre management will continue to monitor the situation closely and will act according to the advice of emergency services," the centre said in a Facebook statement.
"Our focus continues to be the safety of all retailers, staff, customers and the Cairns community."
Southern Queensland is in for a damp Monday as well, with severe thunderstorm activity extending from Charleville to the southeast coast.
"Heavy rains and damaging winds are likely," Mr Majchrowski said.
Meanwhile, Western Australia was on high alert with a severe fire danger still current for the Coastal Central West - South district.
The bureau said hot temperatures and moderate to fresh and gusty north-easterly winds across the Central West were of concern.
The Department of Fire and Emergency Services said residents in the area should action their bushfire survival plan.
As at 2.19am on Monday, local time, a bushfire watch and act is in place south of Perth for parts of Anketell, Oakford, Oldbury and Casuarina in the Serpentine-Jarrahdale shire and Kwinana.
Emergency WA said the fire alert level had been downgraded as the fire had been contained, but it still posed a risk.
"People need to remain alert as conditions could change," a statement said.
"There is a possible threat to lives and homes as a fire is burning in the area and weather conditions are likely to change throughout the day."
In Tasmania, a severe weather warning has been activated for damaging winds for most of the state.
The bureau issued the warning at 5.47am on Monday for people in Upper Derwent Valley, South East, East Coast, North West Coast, Central Plateau, Midlands and parts of Western and Central North forecast districts.
Residents have been warned damaging west to south-westerly winds, averaging 50 to 60km/h, with peak gusts of up to 100 km/h are possible over the southeast and central parts of the island on Monday afternoon, extending along the east coast and northwest later in the evening.
A deep low pressure system is passing south of the state, and a cold front is expected to cross on Monday afternoon.
Originally published as 'Intensified': Qld cyclone danger upgraded