Cyclone Kirrily upgraded to category three as it nears Qld

Latest update on Cyclone Kirrily

Source: Bureau of Meteorology

Cyclone Kirrily has been upgraded to a category three storm as it nears the north Queensland coast, bringing gale-force winds and drenching rain.

The Bureau of Meteorology made the announcement at 3pm (AEST), with Kirrily expected to make landfall within hours, packing winds of 120km/h and gusts up to 165km/h.

“Severe Tropical Cyclone Kirrily is expected to track west-south-west towards the Queensland coast,” the weather bureau said.

“Kirrily will cross the Queensland coast tonight, in the vicinity of Townsville, as a category three system, then weaken on Friday as it moves inland.”

It came as a crucial deadline passed – with state disaster coordinator and deputy commissioner Shane Chelepy urging north Queenslanders to take shelter and clear the roads by 2pm Thursday (AEST) as Kirrily approaches.

“We’re going to see damaging winds from about 2pm today and we’re going to ask people to limit their movements unless it’s absolutely essential,” Chelepy said.

“As the winds pick up, we’ll see debris, you could see powerlines, sheet iron start to blow around on the streets and we’ll see that heavy rain.

“Even walking on the street, you don’t want to be hit by a flying road sign or anything like that.

“Now’s not the time to be driving around, visiting your friends, going to the shops.”

Chelepy said his No.1 priority was to ensure the community got through the cyclone “without loss of life or serious injury”. He said anyone who felt unsafe at home should go to an evacuation centre.

“Go now before it gets dark, go straight onto your local council emergency dashboard that will tell you where our evacuation centres are, go now,” he said.

Kirrily had been expected to cross the coast as a category two system on Thursday night between Ingham and Ayr, most likely around Townsville. Then came the upgrade.

“Gales with damaging wind gusts to 120 km/h are occurring over the Whitsunday Islands and are expected to extend to mainland communities between Ayr and Sarina later today,” the BOM said.

“Gales with damaging gusts to 120 km/h are expected to extend northward to coastal and island communities between Ayr and Ingham, including Townsville, later this afternoon and evening and may extend north between Ingham to Innisfail if the system takes a track further north.”

Queensland Premier Steven Miles said authorities were “prepared and ready for the worst, now we wait and hope for the best”.

Miles has pre-emptively declared a disaster and requested federal and state assistance, including Australian Defence Force support.

Evacuation centres have already taken in people in north Queensland while Townsville airport and more than 120 schools were closed on Thursday. Mackay Airport remained open, although some airlines had cancelled flights.

Queensland Rail has also cancelled all train services north of Rockhampton.

Parts of Palm Island have been evacuated, while the Townsville Disaster Management Group has issued an emergency warning for Magnetic Island, warning residents will need “sufficient boiled drinking water for at least three days”.

Interstate crews have bolstered emergency services teams, joining extra police and energy personnel on standby across the north.

Chelepy said more than 40,000 sandbags had already been deployed.

“We are ready,” he said.

The SES had already received almost 150 calls for assistance by early Thursday afternoon.

Gusts of 140km/h are forecast between Ayr and Bowen, extending north to Ingham and including Townsville.

“We are starting to experience the strong winds and rain as well,” Whitsunday Mayor Julie Hall said.

“As we progress toward this evening, we expect the wind to pick up and also the wet weather as well.”

Hall said 6000 sandbags had been distributed to residents, a new community record.

“That tells you that our community is taking this seriously,” she said.

Sandbag stations were to close at 2pm (AEST), in preparation for the looming cyclone.

The bureau warned a category two system could produce winds strong enough to damage homes as well as bring down trees and power lines. Gale-force winds have already been recorded.

“As we move through this morning and into the rest of today and this evening, these gales with damaging winds will begin to affect more areas on the mainland,” the bureau’s Laura Boekel said.

“Areas between Sarina and Ayr will start to see these stronger winds from this morning, while areas further north between Ayr and Innisfail – that includes Townsville – will then start to see these winds during this afternoon and into this evening.”

The approaching cyclone will also trigger a storm tide between Townsville and Mackay, producing larger waves and flooding.

Intense rainfall that may lead to “life threatening and dangerous flash flooding” will be at the centre of the system.

There may be isolated totals of up to 300 millimetres in 24 hours as it crosses the coast, the bureau warned.

“We can also see rainfall associated with this system once it has crossed the coast and it will continue to bring rainfall even when it becomes downgraded,” Boekel said.

“We are encouraging all Queenslanders … to be across the forecast for this weekend, noting that the system brings a large amount of rainfall.”

The bureau will issue alerts every hour until Cyclone Kirrily crosses the coast.

After it makes landfall, the system will weaken to a tropical low and move inland, bringing heavy rain to central and western Queensland from Friday.

It is also expected to have an indirect impact on the state’s south.

“We could see showers and storms across the south of the state, producing more rainfall than usual because of the system in the north,” Boekel said.

Kirrily is the second cyclone to threaten Queensland in a month. Cyclone Jasper, also a category two system, caused record flooding that devastated the far north in December.

-with AAP

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