Tropical Cyclone Nathan could be more damaging for Cooktown than Cyclone Ita last year, the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) warns.
The cyclone is forecast to cross the coast as a category four system north of Cooktown in fairly non-populated areas early on Friday morning.
But the bureau “cannot rule out” a category five system as favourable conditions could lead to more periods of rapid intensification prior to landfall.
BoM regional director Rob Webb said if the cyclone maintains its path, Cooktown would experience at least category two strength winds.
He said it would be much more damaging than Cyclone Ita last year.
“When Ita crossed the coast at Cape Flattery last year as a category four, it had decayed by the time it had got to Cooktown,” he said.
“If things take a dip south and Cooktown gets the worst than this it could be far worse than what we experience last year in Ita.”
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk warned residents in Cooktown and Hopevale that there could be winds up to 260 kilometres per hour.
Those living in pre-1984 homes should seek refuge in cyclone shelters and from 6:00pm people should not venture out.
Residents stock up on sandbags, alcohol and water
On Thursday afternoon, Cyclone Nathan was a category three system and about 200 kilometres off Cooktown in far north Queensland.
Residents in the firing line of the cyclone are stocking up on sandbags, water and alcohol ahead of the storm, which is expected to make landfall as a category four system on Friday.
Alan Burton, who runs a Cooktown bottle shop, did a day’s trade in the space of one to two hours as residents stockpile before the storm.
“There’ll be some hangovers in town no doubt,” Mr Burton said.
“I’m hoping that when everyone comes to, the worst has passed and they can spend the day cleaning up debris, and sucking on a Berocca and raking up leaves.”
Ant Hadleigh, who runs a kite surfing business at Cape Flattery, said conditions were calm at the moment but things will change.
It’s going to be wild, there’s no doubt about that,” he said.
“I’m just hoping it comes in on the low tide because that will do a bit of damage.
“But it’s not really populated so it’s only going to affect a few of us really I suppose, so no one really wants any dramas but you just have to deal with it.”
Cooktown’s State Emergency Service controller Kym Jerome said there are 100 homes on the river, some of which are at risk of flooding.
The town is well prepared for the cyclone. Locals had taken home 800 sandbags, while generators and a back-up for the water supply were ready.
“There’s already been a couple of roof leaks,” Ms Jerome said.
“There is no chainsaw jobs yet, but with the wind picking up now there is no doubt there will be some chainsaw jobs tomorrow.
“I think everyone is a bit more guarded this time, it’s much bigger and stronger (than Cyclone Ita last year).
“There is a lot of concern out there, there are a lot of older homes.
“Thank heavens we have the cyclone centre people can go to if they don’t feel safe.”