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
  • weather

Region battens down the hatches as cyclone forms

January 24, 2024

The long wait for Tropical Cyclone Kirrily is finally over.

Now north Queensland is bracing for its impact with damaging winds and heavy rain to lash the region as early as Wednesday night.

A tropical low finally developed into Cyclone Kirrily in the Coral Sea on Wednesday afternoon, days after it was first forecast to arrive.

Kirrily is set to cross the coast near Townsville between Cardwell and Bowen as a category 2 system on Thursday night, bringing destructive winds and “life threatening” flash flooding.

“People …should get ready now,” Premier Steven Miles said.

Evacuation plans are in place for communities in Kirrily’s projected path while extra police, energy and emergency crews from across Queensland and interstate are on standby.

Townsville airport is set to close on Thursday along with 120 schools as north Queensland bunkers down.

The first sign of Kirrily is set to be felt at the Whitsunday Islands with winds of 120km/h expected on Wednesday night.

Kirrily was initially forecast to arrive as a severe category 3 system.

But the Bureau of Meteorology warned against complacency about a category 2 cyclone.

Kirrily is still set to produce winds strong enough to damage homes, bring down trees and cause power outages, the bureau said.

“We still are expected to see significant impacts from these winds,” meteorologist Laura Boekel said.

Then there is the heavy rain and flooding.

“Dangerous and life-threatening flash flooding is possible near the centre and the south of that system,” Ms Boekel said.

The 700km area between Innisfail and Sarina has been warned it may experience heavy falls and flooding from early Thursday.

Before Cyclone Debbie at Airlie Beach in 2017
 Kirrily is expected to intensify before hitting the north Queensland coast, bringing damaging winds. Image by Dan Peled/AAP PHOTOS 

People have been told to limit their travel in areas currently in Kirrily’s path.

Residents have also been asked to reconsider their Australia Day long weekend plans, with national parks between Cardwell and Airlie Beach temporarily closed from Wednesday.

Once Kirrily crosses the coast, it is expected to weaken as it heads inland.

However, the system is still set to cause devastation.

“It’s important to know it’s not just about that crossing but what the system will do once it has crossed the coast,” Ms Boekel said.

The low is expected to bring widespread rain and flooding that may impact the state for days, with heavy showers set to hit central and western Queensland from Friday. 

The southeast may also be affected indirectly by rain and potential flooding barely a month after a disastrous Christmas period.

Kirrily is the second cyclone to threaten Queensland in weeks.

Cyclone Jasper caused record flooding that devastated the far north in mid-December.

Floodwater at Lake Placid in Cairns
 Kirrily will be the second cyclone in barely a month to threaten Queensland. Image by Nuno Avendano/AAP PHOTOS 

Severe weather then struck the state’s southeast, with seven people dying in storm-related incidents.

The back-to-back disasters have exceeded $743 million in insured losses, the Insurance Council of Australia said.

Fatigued emergency crews are still recovering.

However they have been bolstered by the arrival of more than 50 personnel from NSW and Victoria.

Meanwhile, Cyclone Anggrek is slowly moving away from the Cocos Islands off Western Australia.

The category two system is set to leave Australian waters on Thursday.

In WA, heavy rainfall up to 100mm and 90km/h winds have been forecast for parts of the Pilbara, Gascoyne, Goldfields and Southern Interior with a severe weather warning current.