Tropical Cyclone Ita in the Coral Sea off far north Queensland has strengthened into a category three system.
The cyclone had stalled south of Papua New Guinea this morning.
About 5:00pm on Tuesday evening, it was 920 kilometres east-north-east of Cooktown.
Weather bureau spokesman Bill O’Connor says it could strengthen further as it approaches the far north Queensland coast.
“Under the current plan, we’re looking at probably sometime Friday afternoon we’re seeing an impact somewhere close to sort of Cape Melville around that Princess Charlotte Bay region,” he said.
“Unfortunately it does look like it’s going to continue to develop.”
Mr O’Connor says the system may bring destructive winds to parts of Cape York.
“Looking as if it could start to intensify in that area late Thursday into Friday as it makes its way very close to the coast – somewhere really between probably about Cooktown and around the Lockhart River region,” he said.
Coen runs out of diesel fuel
Cook Shire Mayor Peter Scott says Coen in Cape York has run out of diesel and it is unclear when the supply will be restocked.
He says there is still petrol, and enough diesel for the local generator and emergency services vehicles, but other will need to rely on their own provisions.
“Now there’s plenty of fuel at Archer River and there’s plenty of fuel at Musgrave and Laura and Lakeland Downs – just Coen does not have that diesel at the moment,” he said.
“There are quite a lot of travellers heading up north – it’s school holidays, it’s Easter.
“My recommendation is with a cyclone impending, be very, very careful – give it a lot of thought before you even think about going north.”
Councillor Scott says the local disaster management group is ensuring agencies are well prepared.
“You can’t be too sure what it’s going to do,” he said.
“We’re a little bit concerned about this one when you look at its legacy it left behind in Honiara, [the Solomon Islands capital].
He says the shire has had a large influx of new residents over the past few years that may not have experienced a cyclone.
“It’s the complacency of new residents and even those who have been here a long time and nothing has happened – that’s the thing that we’ve got to battle all the time – that complacency and that blase attitude that ‘it may not happen to us’,” he said.
“We haven’t had a cyclone in Cooktown since 1949, so there’s a reason for being complacent but the next one could be around the corner.”
– Picture: Australian Bureau of Meteorology