Tropical Cyclone Iris stirs off north Queensland

Tropical Cyclone Iris has intensified overnight to be a category two system and continues to hover off the north Queensland coast.

Tropical Cyclone Iris is stirring north of Queensland. Photo: Bureau of Meterology Australia.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said the cyclone was 310km east of Cairns and 285km north-east of Townsville.

It is moving slowly south-east about 6km/h, with a cyclone watch in place between Ayr and Sarina.

The system is set to strengthen further and is on track to turn into a category three by the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Forecaster Dean Narramore said areas between Ayr and Mackay could see winds of up to 125 kilometres per hour and heavy rain.

“We could see a couple of hundred millimetres of rain – we‘ve already seen 150 millimetres inland of Mackay, we could see that again if not more today,” he said.

Yesterday forecasters warned far north Queensland could be hit again with heavy downpours and strong winds, but today the warning zones shifted further south.

Towns expected to be most impacted are between Ayr and Sarina, including the Whitsunday Islands.

The cyclone will continue moving slowly to the south before curving to the south-east but it is still not predicted to make landfall.

The Queensland Government assured people yesterday it was well prepared for the weather event despite a number of Queensland‘s emergency service members being stationed on the Gold Coast ahead of the start of the Commonwealth Games tomorrow.

Mackay Mayor Greg Williamson said the region only expected localised flooding but residents should take precautions in case the system tracks closer to the coast.

“We‘re in north Queensland – it rains – and we‘re going to get a fairly decent amount of rain over the next 24 hours, we know that,” he said.

“It‘s safe to say that we‘ve had our teams working for two or three days monitoring this and that‘s just a case of being prepared.”

Whitsunday Mayor Andrew Willcox said the severe winds gusts could impact residents and business owners whose properties were still being repaired after Cyclone Debbie.

“What we‘re most concerned about is the people who haven‘t had their house repaired from Tropical Cyclone Debbie,” he said.

“Obviously they‘ll be more vulnerable so we‘re suggesting that they give the SES a call, if they need any assistance with tarping or if they have any issues with roof damage.”

Mayor Willcox said everyone in the community should be prepared and storm ready.

“It‘s a lot easier to be prepared in the calm, so we‘re encouraging everyone to tie everything down, make sure they have their emergency kits, fresh batteries, and plenty of water to drink,” he said.

The Whitsunday Coast Airport remains open and is operating as normal, saying in a statement that no flight cancellations had been received for today.

However, it said flight status could change if the cyclone moved closer to the coast or if roads became impassable.

Mackay disaster district coordinator Superintendent Bruce McNab said tourists holidaying or camping in the region should consider making travel plans today before the weather worsens.

“If you‘re thinking about leaving your holiday destination or your camping ground because the weather is going to worsen over the next couple of days, it‘s going to become quite windy and very rainy, so you should consider doing that today,” he said.

Mr McNab reminded motorists to be safe on the roads, with many travelling after the Easter long weekend.

“We‘ve got a lot of people transitioning back home after their Easter break and it‘s really important to know that there is rain, there‘s an increased amount of people on the road so we‘re asking drivers to think about that and factor it in,” he said.

ABC