| 01.01,19. 02:37 PM |
Category one Tropical Cyclone Penny to cross Queensland coast this afternoon
Tropical Cyclone Penny is expected to cross the Queensland coast near Weipa around 4:00pm today, bringing heavy rain and damaging winds.
The category one system is still in the Gulf of Carpentaria, moving slowly eastwards towards the Cape York Peninsula.
Dean Narramore from the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said there was a small chance the cyclone could strengthen to category two before making landfall.
"It's not out of the realm of possibility but at this stage [it's] looking like a pretty strong category one system," he said.
"We're already seeing wind gusting at Weipa to around 67kph with the rain moving in as well, so we should see those winds increase as we move into the afternoon and evening hours."
BOM senior forecaster Gabriel Branescu said the cyclone would be "short-lived".
"It will move quickly over land just south of Weipa as a category one system, but still strong enough to carry 90kph winds, and gusts to up 120kph," he said.
"It should weaken pretty quick but then it'll pop out in the northern coral sea today … or tomorrow."
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services have deployed extra swift water rescue crews and co-ordination staff to affected communities on Cape York.
Acting Deputy Commissioner Steve Smith said residents should be prepared for heavy rain, damaging winds and flash flooding.
"Communities from Pormpuraaw up to the Cape can expect weather to deteriorate as we move through today and in the coming days," he said.
"We've got some resources moved in to support local communities and we urge residents to do the preparation required now to put themselves into a safe position and to monitor the conditions as they unfold.
"It is a community that's obviously used to experiencing cyclone activity, however we need people to remain vigilant and avoid complacency and prepare their properties, check on their neighbours and friends."
Weipa Town Authority chairman Michael Rowland said flights had been cancelled, the harbour was closed, and roads in and out of Weipa had been cut off.
"[We] definitely started to see an increase in wind and rain activity and even this morning we're starting to see a few squalls coming through," he said.
"You definitely feel there's something brewing."
Weipa marine rescue coordinator Bill Garnaut said residents had been preparing by removing hazards, including a pontoon which took four hours to move from the water.
"It's squeaky clean what happens in Weipa, everyone seems to have their roles," he said.
"The people up here have become quite resilient as far as that's concerned and they don't really need to get a lot of things ready because they seem to stay ready.
"Weipa's one of those places that is able to weather a storm, excuse the pun."
SES and swift-water-rescue crews have also been deployed to the Indigenous community of Aurakun, south of Weipa.
"The problem is that there has been a lot of lead-up rain so the ground is very wet and soggy," SES area controller Peter Rinaudo said.
"So any winds hitting trees that have unsecured root systems can [cause them to] fall over," he said.
Roads are cut into the township of about 1,000 people, but Mr Rinaudo said they were well prepared.
"We have a well-equipped store and just had a barge of supplies arrive," he said.
Mr Rinaudo said it was positive for residents the cyclone was due to cross in the afternoon.
"They sound 10 times worse at night," he said.
"At this stage the likely crossing won't coincide with a high tide anywhere on the western cape, so we shouldn't see any inundation based on that, so that's one less thing to worry about."
A flood watch remains current for coastal catchments north of Cardwell, including catchments across the Cape York Peninsula.
A severe weather warning is also current for rainfall on the northeast tropical coast.
As the cyclone approaches the coast, a storm tide is expected between Cape York and Cape Keerweer.