Ports re-opening, but Cyclone Iris isn't done yet
NORTH Queensland ports and marinas are re-opening this morning after the immediate threat of Cyclone Iris has passed, but those in smaller boats are being warned to take care as the cyclone still lingers.
The Department of Transport and Main Roads said the Regional Harbour Master had opened the Whitsunday, Mackay and Hay Point Pilotage Areas to ferries and powered vessels over 20m.
"Other vessels must remain secured until further notice," TMR said.
"Mariners: Navigate with caution due to possibility of floating debris. (Tropical Cyclone Iris) will remain in the area for a number of days."
The Regional Harbour Master in Townsville has re-opened Abbot Point and Bowen ports, but the department again warned mariners to take care of floating debris.
Official update, 10.35am Thursday:
Tropical Cyclone Iris (Category 1) with central pressure 990 hPa is located well off the central Queensland coast, about 360km east northeast of Hamilton Island and 370km east northeast of Mackay, according to this morning's Bureau of Meteorology cyclone information bulletin.
It remains a category 1 cyclone, but is continuing to weaken. Iris continues to move in an east-southeast direction away from the Queensland east coast.
"Iris is expected to continue on its current track today, and weaken below tropical cyclone intensity this afternoon or tonight," the bureau said.
"The remnant tropical low will turn around tonight and adopt a track back towards the northwest. Tropical cyclone Iris is no longer having any significant impact on the Queensland coast or islands."
Will Iris re-form?
While the bureau is forecasting that TC Iris will be downgraded as a tropical low and move further out to the Coral Sea over the coming days, some weather watchers are keeping an eye on the system and the possibility it could re-intensify.
According to Oz Cyclone Chasers, the EC model is "particularly keen on keeping the Iris saga going with a Cape York crossing Friday next week".
"Of course there is no way of knowing how accurate this will be just yet but it is amusing to see the possibilities none the less of a system that appears unwilling to completely disappear," Oz Cyclone Chasers posted last night.
Tropical cyclones don't always follow the prescribed path, as long-lived Cyclone Justin proved in March 1997.
A large, long-lived cyclone, Justin led forecasters on a merry dance before eventually crossing the Queensland coast as a category two cyclone north-west of Cairns on March 22.
According to a Bureau of Meteorology report, two lows that merged in an active monsoon trough in the Coral Sea developed into Cyclone Justin on March 7, and reached maximum intensity on March 9 as a very large system.
Justin remained almost stationary and due to cooling SSTs it was downgraded to a tropical low on March 13. It then drifted north over warmer SSTs and re-intensified to tropical cyclone strength on March 14, reaching a peak intensity at category three on March 18 before weakening and crossing the coast.
Justin caused loss of life and widespread damage.