Tropical Cyclone Jasper is starting to intensify, bringing destructive winds and flooding as it approaches the Queensland coast.
The state’s far north is bracing for impact within the next 24-hours, with the cyclone just over 200km east of Cairns.
After weakening across the weekend, Cyclone Jasper has intensified again and was upgraded to a category 2 system on Tuesday.
It looks set to cross the coast near Port Douglas north of Cairns by Wednesday lunchtime.
“Things are going to get a little bit rough over the next 12 to 24 hours,” Emergency Services Minister Mark Ryan warned on Tuesday.
Cyclone Jasper is currently producing 95km/h winds with gusts of up to 130km/h.
A tropical cyclone warning is current for Cape Flattery down the coast to north of Townsville and inland to Chillagoe.
“In these areas we’ve already seen some gusty winds and rainfall starting to develop, but through the rest of this afternoon and evening we’re going to see widespread haevy rainfall and sustained gale-force winds,” the Bureau’s Miriam Bradbury said.
Destructive winds are set to develop between Innisfail and Wujal Wujal through to early Wednesday morning with gusts of more than 140km/h.
“Winds of this strength can easily bring down tree limbs, whole trees or power lines, damaging fences, roofs and other properties,” Ms Bradbury said.
Increased rainfall is also expected in the region across the next 12 to 18 hours with flash flooding likely.
Strong winds are expected to move inland as the cyclone progresses.
Evacuation centres have been set up in Cairns, Port Douglas and Cooktown.
Evacuees have already begun arriving in Cairns where preparations for Jasper are well under way.
Locals have started sandbagging with about 15,000 Cairns properties at risk of storm-surge flooding.
The Cairns hospital has contingency plans including cancelling elective surgery on Wednesday to free up capacity.
A nearby aged care facility could also be evacuated.
Cairns airport is set to close on Tuesday night with some airlines already cancelling or rescheduling flights.
About 40 police officers and 70 SES workers have travelled to the far north to help.
Cairns mayor Terry James urged locals to stock up and be prepared for up to five days without power.
“The roads will be cut off – potentially the power will be cut off,” he said.
About 450 Energy Queensland staff have been deployed to Rockhampton and Townsville to respond to power outages.
All national parks and campsites north of the Daintree River have been closed.
People have been urged to avoid travelling on roads or driving through flooded areas.
“It’s been over 60 years since we’ve had a direct hit,” Mr James said.
“There’s a lot of stories out there that say we’re protected.
“Well, we’re not protected.”
Cyclone Jasper is set to weaken as it moves inland on Thursday, heading towards the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Flood watches are in place for those inland areas, with very high rainfalls forecast.
Riverine flooding is expected to continue for some days after the cyclone passes.
“In fact most of the impacts for the east coast of Queensland are likely to linger until the end of the week going into the weekend,” the bureau said.
The system is expected to re-intensify into a tropical cyclone as it moves into the Gulf at the weekend.