The Bureau of Meteorology says Cyclone Kimi was barrelling south about 195km north of Townsville at 1pm AEST on Monday.
Kimi is set to slow and stall between Hinchinbrook Island and Townsville and potentially weaken before crossing the coast on Tuesday.
However, forecasters warn it could still make landfall as a category two storm, packing winds up to 150km/h, on Monday night or on Tuesday.
“Considerable uncertainty remains with the future movement of the system, and a category two coastal crossing between Hinchinbrook Island and Townsville tonight or on Tuesday remains possible,” the bureau said in an alert.
Residents from Innisfail to Bowen, including Townsville, are being told to prepare for gales up to 120km/h, heavy rains and abnormally high tides.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk urged people to listen carefully to media reports and updates on where the cyclone moves.
“Everybody in the north … should be listening to the media reports very, very closely because the bureau will be giving those reports every three hours, and we’ll be giving a further update from the state government this afternoon,” she told reporters.
People between Innisfail and Ayr are being urged to get ready and secure their boats and homes in particular.
“I know we’re Queenslanders, I know we go through cyclones every single year but please do not be complacent,” Police Minister Mark Ryan said.
The bureau also warns that heavy rainfall could bring flash flooding and major river flooding to coastal and hinterland areas between Port Douglas and Ayr on Monday and Tuesday.
Ryan said a flood watch was issued for waterways including the Jeannie, Endeavour, Daintree, Mossman, Barron, Mulgrave, Russell, Johnstone, Tully, Murray and Herbert rivers.
“So if you’re in those areas you need to prepare … if it’s flooded forget it, have a plan about where you’ll be travelling, bear in mind where those river catchments are, be aware that during this event you could have flash flooding,” he said.
Parts of the Wooroonooran, Girramay and Paluma Range national parks, and the Abergowrie State Forest, have been closed.
With the cyclone set to dump rain on large parts of Queensland’s interior, flood warnings have also been issued for a number of inland rivers.
The Norman and Gilbert rivers in the Gulf Country and most of the Queensland tributaries of Lake Eyre could break their banks.
Assistant District Officer Mark Lingwood said emergency services were preparing for the extreme weather and deploying staff to the regions where it was predicted the system could make landfall.
“As with any cyclones, we’re never sure exactly where it’s going to go, it’s anticipated it may cross between Cardwell and Lucinda, but there’s nothing stopping it making a right-hand turn and coming into Cairns,” he said.
“QPS are pre-deploying officers from the Cairns area down to the Tully and Cardwell area and also bringing police officers up to the Ingham area.
“We’re already sodden from ex-Tropical Cyclone Imogen, so it won’t take long for the creeks, gutters, causeways to fill with water.”
He urged people not to travel if possible, and to check road closures if they do need to leave their homes.
AAP, additional reporting ABC /Stephanie ZilmanJump to next article