Cyclone Nora: Far north Queensland on high alert
UPDATE: CYCLONE Nora has been downgraded to a category 2 storm after crossing the western coast of Cape York early today, but heavy rainfall and wind gust warning remain in place for far north inland Queensland.
Nora crossed the coast as a category 3 storm early this morning, bringing destructive winds and heavy rain that could cause flash flooding.
But the Bureau of Meteorology downgraded the cyclone to a category 2 at 4am.
It is tracking southwards over land near the western Cape York Peninsula coast and is located near Kowanyama, on the western side of Cape York.
"We are expecting it will move south and weaken into a Category 1 cyclone and into a tropical low by tonight," bureau spokeswoman Sarah Fitton said.
"(But there's) still a risk of heavy rainfall and wind gusts with the system."
State disaster co-ordinator deputy commissioner Bob Gee yesterday advised the 10,000 people in areas predicted to be affected to use the time before the storm arrived to prepare.
"Lock down tonight, safe and secure, take your supplies with you and stay there until it is safe to come out," he said.
SES leaders and extra police have been deployed to remote communities to assist but when Nora hits it will be too dangerous for anyone to be outside, he said. Swift water rescue crews have also been stationed along the western Cape York coast.
OVERNIGHT: THE weather bureau has warned severe tropical Cyclone Nora could make landfall overnight between Cape Keerweer and Gilbert River Mouth.
At 8.30pm Cyclone Nora was located 185km north-northwest of Kowanyama moving southeast at 21km/h.
The weather bureau said the system was beginning to weaken as it neared the coast but remained a severe category three.
The eye wall of Cyclone Nora was hitting the coast near Cape Keerweer and tracking parallel to the coast.
A coastal crossing was still predicted overnight or during Sunday between Cape Keerweer and Gilbert River Mouth.
Winds of 120km/h were being recorded at the cyclone's core with gusts up to 165km/h.
A storm tide is also expected between Weipa and the Gilbert River Mouth with large waves producing minor flooding along the foreshore.
On Saturday afternoon, authorities urged residents along the western coast of Queensland's Peninsula to bunker down now and not leave the house.
The weather bureau has updated the tracking map of severe tropical cyclone Nora and is expecting it to make landfall around lunchtime Sunday near Kowanyama.
Wind gusts of 195km/h are currently being felt at the cyclone's core.
The system is no longer expected to reach a category four due to dry winds blowing in off the Cape York a Peninsula.
The Queensland Premier held a State Disaster Management Committee meeting on Saturday afternoon with other emergency service authorities.
Ms Palaszczuk urged residents to move into stronger housing and keep safe from destructive winds.
Earlier, an emergency alert has been issued for the western coast of Cape York as Cyclone Nora intensifies into an expected category 4 storm.
Destructive winds gusting up to 270km/h will likely develop today and could affect Weipa, Mapoon and Napranum.
"People are asked to warn neighbours, secure belongings, and seek safe shelter," Queensland Fire and Emergency Services said.
Swift water rescue crews are being stationed along the Gulf and up the western coast of Cape York, a senior Queensland Fire and Emergency Services source told AAP.
They will remain on standby until the threat from Nora has passed and will help with damage assessment once the storm has dissipated.
At midday today, Nora was about 205km west of Weipa and was moving southeast at 14km/h.
If the core of the cyclone nears the coast, the BoM warns very destructive winds could develop between Weipa and Kowanyama on Saturday afternoon or night.
The forecast winds are strong enough to cause roof and structural damage if Nora hits a populated area.
"People between Mapoon and Karumba, including Weipa and Mornington Island, should immediately commence or continue preparations, especially securing boats and property using available daylight hours," the Bureau of Meteorology warns.
Severe #QLDStorm warning updated: now for damaging winds as well as heavy falls. Locations which may be affected include Thargomindah, Bulloo Downs, Eromanga, Hungerford, Mount Margaret and Mt Howitt Station. Updates: https://t.co/cCbdp2H1bF pic.twitter.com/xmv533iX6c— Bureau of Meteorology, Queensland (@BOM_Qld) March 21, 2018
Heavy rain and flash floods are also predicted from Torres Strait to the Gulf of Carpentaria, and tidal surges bringing large waves could inundate foreshores.
Flood watches are in place as up to 200mm of rain could fall daily, with isolated pockets possibly being hit with 300mm.
Minor flooding is likely to occur from the Cape possibly down to Townsville.
As well as closely watching developments with the weather authorities are also wary of crocodiles, which usually go out to sea ahead of extreme weather, but could come into areas they usually don't.
Nora could cross the coast anywhere along the Western Cape York Peninsula south of Weipa during Saturday afternoon or Sunday the BoM said.
While no cyclone has crossed the coast in the forecast area since 2001, precautions are being taken and SES leaders and extra police have been deployed to remote communities, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will meet with the disaster management committee on Saturday afternoon.