Qld safe as NT battens down

Northern Territory communities smashed by Cyclone Lam last month are again in the firing line of another severe storm which has battered far north Queensland.

Category one Cyclone Nathan is expected to turn into a low in the Gulf of Carpentaria off western Cape York in the early hours of Saturday.

However, the Bureau of Meteorology is warning the storm will intensify into a category two storm as it tracks northwest towards the Top End over the next 36 hours.

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A cyclone warning remains from Cape Sidmouth to Cape Melville, including inland areas, and a watch alert is in place for areas between Numbulwar and Maningrida in the NT.

Elcho Island, which was ravaged by Cyclone Lam last month, sits within the cyclone watch area for the NT.

Forecaster Diana Eadie says its too early to say exactly where Nathan will end up but conditions in the gulf are favourable for cyclones.

“There’s a possibility that it will impact areas that were hit by Lam but its difficult to pinpoint exactly where,” she told AAP.

A category two storm would bring winds up to 125km/h and heavy rain.

Cyclone Nathan was about 55km south-southwest of Coen on Cape York on Friday evening.

It crossed the coast near Cape Flattery, in Queensland’s far north, as a category four storm in the early hours of Friday.

The two towns expected to cop the worst of the storm – Hope Vale and Cooktown – were hit with heavy rain and strong winds but escaped relatively unscathed.

The worst damage was at a vital banana plantation at Hope Vale where almost half the crop was destroyed.

Manager Ken Reid said it was a tough day for the community as the crop had only recently regrown after being destroyed by Cyclone Ita almost a year ago.

Dozens spent Thursday night bunkered down in cyclone shelters at Cooktown and Hope Vale.

Cooktown resident Jeff Sanders told AAP he spent a comfortable night at the refuge with his wife and three young children.

“Last night was 100 per cent better than Ita,” he said.

“We all slept right through the night this time.”

Residents in Cooktown awoke to find some fences and roofs damaged and branches strewn across streets, but the small town was relatively unscathed.

Mayor Peter Scott said authorities and residents were well prepared for the storm after being smashed by category four Cyclone Ita in April last year.

A flooded road into Hope Vale has since reopened and power has been restored to the town.

The weather bureau says Cape Flattery recorded 167km/h winds on Friday morning while Cooktown was hit by 85km/h winds when Nathan passed by.

Heavy rain and strong winds will continue to batter parts of the Cape York Peninsula on Friday night and Saturday as Nathan moves west.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said earlier on Friday that initial aerial surveillance over the region showed Nathan hadn’t caused major damage, and there were no reports of injury.

“Overall we have some very good news,” she said.

It isn’t yet known whether a luxury resort at Lizard Island has been damaged but a helicopter was expected to survey the area on Saturday.

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