Tropical low system developing in the northern Coral Sea
Emergency crews are on high alert with Cyclone Kirrily set to form in the Coral Sea. Image by HANDOUT/BUREAU OF METEOROLOGY
  • forecast

Cyclone countdown begins with major flooding predicted

January 23, 2024

The countdown has begun for Tropical Cyclone Kirrily’s arrival as flood-hit Queensland regions brace for more devastation.

Widespread flooding is expected to impact the state after the cyclone hits the north Queensland as early as Thursday night.

It is now set to cross the coast as a category 2 system, with the 90km area between Townsville and Ayr currently in the firing line.

“It’s incredibly important that individuals and households prepare themselves,” Queensland Premier Steven Miles said.

Queensland emergency crews are set to receive interstate and Australian Defence Force support as they prepare for a second cyclone in barely a month.

Many are still fatigued from a massive recovery effort launched after Cyclone Jasper devastated the far north and seven people died in storm-related incidents in the southeast in December.

They are on high alert with Cyclone Kirrily set to form in the Coral Sea early on Wednesday morning.

It is expected to impact the coast barely 24 hours later either on Thursday night or early Friday morning, bringing destructive winds and “life threatening” flash flooding.

“We will see heavy and intense rainfall as this system crosses and beyond,” the Bureau of Meteorology’s Laura Boekel said.

“We can also expect intense rainfall which may lead to dangerous and life-threatening flash flooding … close to the centre of this system.”

Heavy showers that might lead to flash flooding are set to impact the north from Townsville to south of Mackay before moving inland and up to Cairns by Thursday.

Communities near Cairns were the worst hit by Jasper, which was a category 2 system when it caused record flooding that destroyed homes and prompted evacuations in mid-December.

Tree damage at Mount Tamborine
 The premier has sounded out back-up for energy workers deployed to assist cyclone-hit areas. Image by Jono Searle/AAP PHOTOS 

Kirrily is then expected to weaken into a tropical low and bring significant rainfall to the state’s central and southern inland areas through to next week, sparking flooding concerns.

“This could be a very widespread event as well as a long-duration event,” Ms Boekel warned.

Authorities said people should be preparing for two events – Kirrily’s impact and the major flooding set to follow.

“(It) is going to be a challenging time because of the large geographic spread of this event throughout Queensland,” Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said.

“During the disaster season already we (have) lost seven lives … within two days – we don’t want to see that again.”

Police back-up has already flown north while extra emergency services crews are on standby from Townsville to Rockhampton including swift water rescue teams. 

Energy workers have also been deployed to assist cyclone-hit areas.

More help could be on the way with the premier already sounding out back-up for exhausted crews.

The aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Jasper
 Far north Queensland is still recovering from the impact of Tropical Cyclone Jasper in December. Image by Brian Cassey/AAP PHOTOS 

“The fact that we are effectively preparing for both of the events we experienced in December … we are likely to need additional support from other states and the Australian government,” Mr Miles said.

Authorities stopped short of asking Queenslanders to cancel their Australia Day long weekend plans but asked them to monitor warnings and reconsider camping in remote areas.

A cyclone has already formed off the Australian coast.

Cyclone Anggrek is 570km west of Cocos Islands off Western Australia, with the category 1 system set to move out of Australian waters by Thursday.

Meanwhile, a tropical low that caused floods and evacuations in the Northern Territory is now in WA.

The low is moving slowly in the Pilbara region, triggering a severe weather and flood warning with heavy rainfall possible for parts of northern WA.

It is set to “run out of juice” as it tracks south later this week.