Tropical low off northeast Australia reaches cyclone strength


A tropical low slowly moving toward northeast Australia reached cyclone strength on Wednesday and will bring flooding into Queensland state into the weekend

Tropical Cyclone Kirrily was moving west at 5 mph and forecast to make landfall overnight Thursday.

“After the cyclone crosses the coast, it’s likely to weaken to a tropical low but have very high levels of rainfall associated with it,” Queensland Premier Steven Miles said at a news conference in Brisbane. “And so depending on its path, that rainfall is likely to cause flooding in parts of the state.”

Winds gusting up to 120 kph (75 mph) were expected as it crossed the Whitsunday Islands before increasing to 150 kph (93 mph) on the Australian mainland.

Australian Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Laura Boekel said Kirrily’s winds may be strong enough to cause minor damage to buildings, falling trees and power outages.

“In terms of flooding, the most intense rainfall which could lead to dangerous and life-threatening flash flooding is possible near the center and the south of that system, and that’s most likely as this system crosses the coast on Thursday,” Boekel said.

It’s the second cyclone in as many months to hit the region, which was lashed in December by Tropical Cyclone Jasper, the first tropical cyclone of the Australian season, which spans the hot southern hemisphere months of November to April.

Heavy to intense rain is forecast for other parts of Queensland when the storm heads inland, and authorities have asked people to reconsider their plans for the Australia Day holiday on Friday, with a number of campgrounds set to be closed on Wednesday.

“As of this evening, we will ask the community to start limiting their travel in these (impacted) areas due to strong winds and rain,” Queensland state disaster coordinator Deputy Commissioner Shane Chelepy said.

“The next 24 hours is critical for our communities, all the way down from Cardwell down to the Whitsunday area, to prepare for this crossing,” Chelepy said.

The Queensland government said extra emergency services crews, specializing in flood rescues, have also been deployed.

The storm system is expected to move into inland regions of Queensland from Friday. But in welcome news for the storm-battered area, forecast models have shown the potential rainfall may be less than previously forecast.



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