News State Queensland Cyclone Iris strengthens off north Queensland coast

Cyclone Iris strengthens off north Queensland coast

The tropical cyclone is expected to strengthen to category 3.
The tropical cyclone is expected to strengthen to category 3. Photo: Instagram / beckwildadventures
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Tropical Cyclone Iris is intensifying as it sits off the north Queensland coast.

The system is on track to strengthen to a category three on Wednesday.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) said the cyclone was 335 kilometres north-east of Townsville.

A warning is in place for the stretch between Bowen and St Lawrence, with St Lawrence to Yeppoon in the watch zone.

The cyclone was producing wind gusts of up to 130km/h on Tuesday, about 5pm.

BoM warned heavy rainfall could lead to flash flooding on Tuesday night or Wednesday, particularly around the Central Coast and Whitsundays district.

A flood watch is in place for coastal catchments between Ayr and St Lawrence.

The cyclone will continue moving slowly south, parallel to the Queensland coast, but it is still not predicted to make landfall.

Meanwhile, deteriorating conditions forced a rescue helicopter to turn back after trying to reach a German backpacker stranded on Gloucester Island off the North Queensland coast.

cyclone iris
A map tracking the forecast route of Tropical Cyclone Iris, as at 5pm Tuesday. Photo: Bureau of Meteorology

Whitsunday water police have spoken to the man, who is in good spirits, and authorities plan to check on him again on Wednesday or Thursday.

Marinas and ports across Mackay and the Whitsundays are closed and have cancelled transport services as a result of rough seas.

The Whitsunday Coast Airport remains open, however several flights into Hamilton Island have been cancelled.

Kristy Haslam, who runs the Proserpine Motel and Guest House, said she was worried about Cyclone Iris because rooms took serious damage during ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie.

“I am starting to see some more water damage around the rooms that are operating,” she said.

“I’m just hoping that we can get it fixed in time or that we don’t get severe wind so that it causes us more hassles.

“We’ll batten down the hatches as much as possible and pray, that’s all we can do.”

Hello cyclone iris 😱 this is the normally peaceful creek in finch hatton gorge

Posted by Rachel Wastell on Monday, April 2, 2018

State disaster co-ordinator Bob Gee said the cyclone was “unpredictable” and people travelling in the warning zones should make alternative plans.

He has assured the public they had “thought ahead” when pre-deploying emergency personnel.

“We have more than sufficient resources on the ground in terms of police, fire and emergency services all the way from Bowen through into Mackay and all the way down to St Lawrence,” Mr Gee said.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she had spoken with local mayors and they were “comfortable” with the level of preparations.

“Our councils have been through this before,” she said.

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Kristy Haslam and her kitten Marley brace for Tropical Cyclone Iris at her motel in Proserpine. Photo: ABC

The state government on Monday assured people it was well prepared for the weather event despite a number of Queensland’s emergency service members being stationed on the Gold Coast ahead of the start of the Commonwealth Games.

“We have been planning for the likelihood if there were two events … when we are confronted with natural disasters we pull together,” Mr Palaszczuk said.

Whitsunday Mayor Andrew Willcox said the severe winds gusts could impact residents and businesses owners whose properties were still being repaired after Cyclone Debbie.

“What we’re most concerned about is the people who haven’t had their house repaired from Tropical Cyclone Debbie,” he said.

cyclone iris
The yacht Sail Away comes adrift in Shute Harbour as the effects of Cyclone Iris are felt in the Whitsundays. Photo: Stevon Kemp

“Obviously they’ll be more vulnerable so we’re suggesting that they give the SES a call, if they need any assistance with tarping or if they have any issues with roof damage.”

Cr Willcox said everyone in the community should be prepared and storm ready.

“It’s a lot easier to be prepared in the calm, so we’re encouraging everyone to tie everything down, make sure they have their emergency kits, fresh batteries, and plenty of water to drink,” he said.

Please see Bureau of Meteorology for the latest advice.

-with ABC