Cyclone Niran intensifies in North Queensland

By AAP 2 March 2021
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Category one Cyclone Niran, packing winds up to 85km/h, is slowly moving away from the north Queensland coast, but it’s set to intensify and return.

A tropical cyclone is churning off north Queensland’s coast, leaving thousands of homes without power and heavy rain causing floods in some areas.

Cyclone Niran was packing 85km/h winds and 120km/h gusts as it slowly tracked northeast about 235km northeast of Cairns on Tuesday morning.

“The cyclone is expected to continue moving slowly to the northeast during today before becoming slow-moving or drifting back slowly to the west this evening into Wednesday,” the Bureau of Meteorology said.

“Niran is expected to continue intensifying over the next day or two.”

Related: Australia’s most destructive cyclones: a timeline

The forecast map shows the cyclone turning into a category two system by 1pm AEST on Tuesday before intensifying into a category three storm by 7am on Thursday.

A gale warning has been issued for coastal and island communities between Cape Flattery and Innisfail, with gusts up to 100km/h expected by Wednesday.

The winds knocked down power lines on Monday night, blacking out about 42,000 homes in the region.

Abnormally high tides may also develop about the central and tropical east coast of Queensland, and storm force wind warnings are in place for these regions on Wednesday.

The Townsville radar went offline on Sunday but the bureau has reassured the community it does not affect their ability to issue forecasts and warnings.

It is estimated to be up and running again by Thursday.

Flood warnings and watches will also be monitored and reviewed on Tuesday.

Two people were rescued from floodwaters near the Star River, west of Townsville, about 9.30pm on Monday.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said residents should follow the bureau for updates.

“My main message today to people in the far north, and they’ve dealt with heavy rain before and cyclones so they know exactly what they’re doing, but if it’s flooded, forget it,” she said.

Tropical cyclone advice will be issued by the bureau every three hours during the warning phase. 

Related: On this day in history: Cyclone Tracy

Cairns Deputy Mayor Terry James said the weather had died down as the cyclone moved away from the coast on Tuesday morning.

“The conditions here at the moment is pretty typical in Cairns, beautiful one day and perfect the next,” he told Seven’s Sunrise program. 

“So we have got a small hiccup, we have got a cyclone off the coast as you mentioned, about 250km to the northeast of us, and it’s a bit of a breeze at the moment and is heading away from us at the moment so we don’t expect to see to much trouble until maybe later on tonight.”

Mr James said the council was well prepared if the cyclone picked up or returned and it was trying to restore electricity to homes in areas where power lines were down.

He said if Niran returned it would likely track towards southern Cairns and the Cassowary Coast region.

“These things are very unpredictable. So we are saying to the people in the area to just be vigilant, keep the eyes and ears open and listening to the forecast, listen to the radio and be prepared just in case,” Mr James said.