People have been warned to take shelter as far north Queensland braces for Tropical Cyclone Jasper’s destructive arrival.
Heavy rainfall and strong winds have already hit the region, with Jasper strengthening to become a category 2 system 110km off Cairns.
It was set to hit land on Wednesday evening with the Aboriginal community of Wujal Wujal near Cape Tribulation in its path.
People have begun to evacuate homes, with trees uprooted in Port Douglas by damaging winds.
Cyclone Jasper’s arrival is set to trigger flash flooding, with the far north expecting up to 300mm over six hours and 500mm in 24 hours.
The system has already delivered more than 100mm of rainfall to several locations along the coast and brought damaging wind gusts in excess of 90km/h.
More than 17,000 homes and businesses are without power while about 100 people have headed to evacuation centres, with 120 calls for SES assistance.
While Cyclone Jasper is strengthening, the Bureau of Meteorology said earlier on Wednesday it was not expected to intensify into a category 3 system.
“Jasper is expected to bring destructive wind gusts during the afternoon, before weakening overnight as it moves inland,” the bureau said.
The category 2 cyclone is producing wind gusts of up to 140km/h.
People from Cape Flattery down to Cairns were on Wednesday afternoon told to take shelter.
“Go to the strongest, safest part of the building you are in. This will be away from big windows,” the emergency warning said.
“Stay there. Emergency services cannot get to you because it is too dangerous.”
Local cafe owner Anton Rafferty told AAP people were mainly staying off the streets in Cairns.
“For the most part, people are just sitting at home waiting it out,” he said.
Residents between Laura, Staaten, Munderra and Palmerville in the far north were earlier warned they should prepare to take shelter.
“Conditions will get worse as it gets closer to land,” the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services alert said of the cyclone.
“Very strong winds may knock down trees, powerlines, blow roofs off some houses and blow away anything not tied down outside – this is a risk to life. “
Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers said his thoughts were with residents bracing for impact, including his sibling.
“I’ve checked on my sister who lives in Cairns and in a typical, Queensland understated way she said it was getting a bit breezy,” he told reporters.
“I think the whole country has the people of … far north Queensland in their thoughts today as they batten the hatches.”
Evacuation centres have been established in Cairns, Port Douglas and Cooktown.
Deputy Premier Steven Miles travelled to Townsville on Wednesday to monitor the emergency response.
People have been busy preparing for flash flooding and potentially days without power.
About 450 Energy Queensland staff are on standby at Rockhampton and Townsville while more than 100 emergency personnel have been deployed out of Brisbane to boost local crews.
The Australian Defence Force is also poised to assist.
“We stand ready to support far north Queensland, the Queensland government and local governments in any way needed in the days ahead,” Federal Emergency Management Minister Murray Watt said.
Cyclone Jasper should weaken quickly as it travels inland but is expected to re-intensify as it moves into the Gulf at the weekend.