Preparations are underway as Tropical Cyclone Jasper bears down on the Queensland coast, bringing potentially disastrous consequences.
Gale-force winds are expected to hit several communities from today, including Cairns, Innisfail, Palm Island and Wujal Wujal.
The system weakened to a category 1 cyclone as it moved west towards the coast across the weekend but could re-intensify before making landfall near Port Douglas, north of Cairns, as a category 2 by Wednesday afternoon.
If the slow-moving cyclone is delayed further, it could develop into an even more intense system, prompting authorities to take considerable precautions.
“If the system is slower and crosses overnight on Wednesday or Thursday, a slim chance remains of a severe category 3 crossing,” the Bureau of Meteorology said.
Evacuation centres have been set up across the region, with Deputy Premier Steven Miles warning of a significant risk of flash flooding when Jasper makes landfall.
“It will then progress across the cape, affecting some of the most vulnerable Queensland communities,” he said.
A cyclone watch zone is also in place, extending inland and further north to Cape Melville.
Services in the region including the Daintree River ferry will be placed on hold, with the Cairns Harbour Master instructing the grounding of all vessels.
“The potential for very strong winds, rising water levels and possible debris moving through the Daintree River would mean operating the ferry would not be safe,” Douglas Shire Council said in a statement.
Late on Monday, Jasper was 425km east of Cairns and about 365km from Townsville, with winds of 85km/h and gusts of up to 120km/h.