Cyclone Ita has been upgraded to a category five and is on its way to hit far north coast Queensland's coast.
Ita was upgraded late on Thursday afternoon. It is predicted to land north of Cooktown on Friday night, with a strong chance of coinciding with a 7pm high tide.
This will create dangerous storm surges, about 1.5 metres bigger than usual high tides, from Port Douglas to Cape Melville, Queensland's Bureau of Meteorology says.
The bureau's senior forecaster Pradeep Singh says heavy rain will also trigger flash floods.
He said while Ita was intense, it's a smaller system and would move slower than category five Cyclone Yasi in 2011 and category four Cyclone Larry in 2006.
It's expected to bring 280km/h winds when it hits the coast, with 9000 people directly in its path.
Premier Campbell Newman has arrived in Cooktown, having cut short an Asian trade trip.