Cyclone Kirrily is expected to be declared today and rapidly intensify to a severe category three system as it moves towards the Queensland coast, according to the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM).
It’s forecast to cross the coast most likely overnight on Thursday between Cardwell and Airlie Beach, with “widespread, severe impacts,” BOM forecaster Laura Boekel said.
The system “will continue intensifying once it becomes a tropical cyclone, and at this stage, the most likely scenario is that it could be a severe tropical cyclone before it crosses the coast later in the week,” Ms Boekel said on Monday.
However, the chance of it being severe when it makes landfall has decreased.
The cyclone watch area is currently from Cairns to St Lawrence, not including Cairns, but includes Townsville, Mackay and the Whitsundays islands.
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Anyone from “Innisfail right down the Sunshine Coast” needs to stay up-to-date as the system develops, State Disaster Coordinator Deputy Commissioner Shane Chelepy said.
He said Queenslanders must make sure they have petrol, non-perishable food to last 72 hours, and charge power packs for their phones.
Deputy Commissioner Chelepy said all of the dams from Innisfail to Brisbane have been reviewed, and at this stage no releases are required.
“The concern I hold for this event…is not just the cyclone it’s the potential flooding we’ll see post this event,” he said.
“The bureau have been clear, there’s a lot of rain associated with this event.”
The system is expected to lose intensity as it travels south, bringing heavy rainfall and the risk of flash floods to central, southern inland, and south-east Queensland regions.
As of Monday evening, 10 of the state’s dams were already spilling, including Brisbane’s Enoggera Dam, Little Nerang in the Gold Coast hinterland and Cedar Pocket near Gympie.
In a statement, Seqwater executive general manager Fiore Zulli said the ungated dams were designed to spill and the authority was closely watching water levels.
“Given we cannot predict how much rain will fall and where it will fall, we focus on preparing for a range of rainfall events and how this might impact the water levels at Seqwater dams,” he said.
‘No time to dry out’
Heavy rains are forecast for regions still sodden from floods after ex-tropical Cyclone Jasper and storms over Christmas.
In the state’s north, rivers rose to record levels after Jasper made landfall, including the Daintree River which reached 14.85 metre, breaking its current 12.6m record, and the Barrow River reached 4.4m, exceeding its 1977 3.8m record.
There were records in the south-east as well, after December storms and a monsoon in January.
Many of the region’s weather stations have already recorded 300 millimetres this month, with 833mm recorded at the Springbrook Road weather station, south of Beechmont.
The already saturated catchments are expected to respond quickly to the predicted deluge, Ms Boekel said.
“All of those areas, especially along the North Tropical Coast and North Tropical Queensland have already seen flooding and the catchments have not had any time to dry out,” she said.
“But there are other catchments across Queensland that have also seen rain, so we are expecting catchments to respond reasonably quickly, especially in areas that have already seen flooding this season.”