The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has upgraded tropical Cyclone Niran to a Category two storm as it continues to deliver strong winds, heavy downpours and possible flooding to the coastal communities in the Far North of Queensland.
The slow-moving category two system is lingering approximately 280km northeast of Cairns. According to Rosa Hoff, a BOM forecaster, the cyclone was earlier expected to gradually grow intense while staying well offshore.
“We’re not expecting the system to cross the coast,” Ms Hoff noted.
“It should remain slow-moving, very close to its current location as it develops slowly into a category three cyclone over the next two days.
“After that, we are expecting it to move off in a south-easterly direction, most likely on Thursday.”
The system has already dumped heavy showers throughout the region with Clump Point receiving 276mm and Davies Reef recording 227mm in just 24 hours.
A very strong 124kmph wind gust was experienced at Arlington Reef on the outskirts of Cairns as Lucinda recorded 94kmph wind gust.
Wild weather continues
“Gale-force winds with damaging wind gusts up to 100 kilometres per hour and areas of heavy rain could redevelop over the tropical east coast of Queensland over the next couple of days, including tonight or even potentially tomorrow,” Ms Hoff told Storm Assist.
“It’s going to be a long few days for the communities in the region.” Robert Zahra, a banana grower in Innisfail lamented how his plantation suffered “devastating” damage.
“We were just working as normal yesterday morning … [the] bureau was just saying a little bit of rain and bit of strong wind but it obviously got a lot worse than that,” he said.
Strong winds intensified
“We just kept picking as much as we could yesterday morning until they started falling down around us.” He added that they had stopped picking when suddenly the strong winds intensified making it unsafe for them to continue.
“It was like a freight train out there in the paddock … you’ve just got to make the call,” he explained.
Mr Zahra said he was still assessing the total cost of damage caused to his crops. “Anything with a bunch cover on it is on the ground, there’s nothing standing at all in places,” he said.
In the meantime, heavy showers soaked parts of the coast as Alva Beach recorded 219mm in just 24 hours, with Lucinda and Groper Creek receiving 186mm and 183mm respectively.
The BOM has warned that the system is carrying winds of about 75kph and wind gusts of maximum speeds of up to 100kmp.
Communities lying between Lucinda and Cape Flattery are within the warning zone, as a flood watch remains in place for catchment areas between Rollingstone and Cooktown.
As at now, seven state schools and a whole 32 Catholic and independent schools remain closed.
The State Emergency Service (SES) area controller Peter Rinaudo revealed that the SES had so far handled 127 jobs, with most of them relating to downed powerlines and trees that caused a power outage in thousands of homes.
“For a system that wasn’t a cyclone [at the time yesterday], it certainly created a lot of interest for us, we had a lot of wind, a lot of rain and a lot of jobs for something that wasn’t crossing our coast,” Mr Rinaudo said.
However, emergency responders have been put on high alert for potential heavy rainfall expected later in the evening or early tomorrow.
“The catchments are still saturated, so any water we’re still getting into those catchment’s can potentially produce some sort of flooding that may impact roadways and creeks,” Mr Rinaudo said.
Power outage to thousands of households
Yesterday’s extreme weather resulted in a prolonged blackout in over 40,000 properties in Cairns as well as the Cassowary Coast.
Emma Oliveri, Ergon’s spokeswoman has urged residents to remain patient as crews work tirelessly to reconnect power.
“We’ve got outages right across the board, which makes it all the more challenging for our crews,” Ms Oliveri said.
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