Anxious wait: Kirrily creeps slowly towards the coast with winds and rain in tow

An anxious wait for Tropical Cyclone Kirrily is almost over, with damaging winds and heavy rain set to lash north Queensland.

Jan 24, 2024, updated Jan 24, 2024
Cyclone Kirrily caused huge damage in the far north pack winds of up to 140km/h (AAP Dan Peled)

Cyclone Kirrily caused huge damage in the far north pack winds of up to 140km/h (AAP Dan Peled)

Days after it was first expected to appear, Cyclone Kirrily is finally set to form off the Queensland coast on Wednesday night.

Police, energy and emergency crews from across Queensland and interstate have headed north in preparation for the arrival of what is now expected to be a category two system on Thursday night.

“It’s likely to cross the Queensland coast Thursday night between Cardwell and Bowen as a category two system, not a category three as we updated yesterday,” Premier Steven Miles said.

Winds of 120km/h are set to hit the Whitsunday Islands on Wednesday night, with Townsville airport to close from midday on Thursday.

Tropical cyclone warnings have been issued for Ayr to Sarina, including Mackay, Bowen and the Whitsunday Islands.

A watch zone is effective from Innisfail to Townsville and stretches inland to Charters Towers, meteorologist Laura Boekel said.

State disaster co-ordinator Deputy Commissioner Shane Chelepy said at risk communities had been engaged to ensure they were ready.

Fatigued emergency crews are also well prepared with interstate support set to arrive.

NSW back-up left for Queensland on Wednesday to bolster local crews who had already completed a major recovery effort after back to back disasters in December.

Kirrily is the second cyclone in barely a month to threaten Queensland.

Cyclone Jasper caused record flooding that devastated the far north in mid-December.

Severe weather then struck the state’s southeast, with seven people dying in storm-related incidents.

The Bureau of Meteorology said Kirrily’s arrival had been delayed due to conditions not conducive to tropical cyclone development.

However, that was expected to change on Wednesday.

“The development of this low remains slow but we are expecting it to see a tropical cyclone strength tonight,” Ms Boekel said.

Once Kirrily forms it is expected to intensify before hitting the north Queensland coast, bringing damaging winds and widespread heavy rainfall that may lead to flash flooding.

“Gales with damaging wind gusts of up to 120 kilometres per hour will likely impact the Whitsundays overnight,” Ms Boekel said.

“The most intense rainfall which could lead to dangerous and life-threatening flash flooding is possible near the centre and the south of that system, and that’s most likely as this system crosses the coast on Thursday.”

Communities in Kirrily’s sights have been told to bunker down.

“The next 24 hours is critical for our communities, all the way down from Cardwell down to the Whitsunday area, to prepare for this crossing,” Mr Chelepy said.

“As of this evening, we will ask the community to start limiting their travel in these areas due to strong winds and rain.”

People have also been asked to reconsider their Australia Day long weekend plans, with a number of campgrounds set to be closed on Wednesday.

Once Kirrily crosses the coast, it is expected to rapidly weaken as it heads inland.

However, the system may yet still cause more devastation as it moves further inland and south.

The low is set to bring widespread rain and flooding that may impact the state for days, with heavy showers expected to hit central and western Queensland from Friday.

But the bureau said the risk of the southeast being impacted had lowered, providing some relief for a region still recovering from the devastating Christmas period.

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