Australia

Cyclone Owen downgraded to category two after crossing Queensland coast

Queenslanders are preparing themselves for days of wild weather courtesy of tropical Cyclone Owen. (AAP)

Cyclone Owen has hit Queensland, crossing the Cape York coast near Kowanyama before being downgraded to a category 2 system.

Cyclone Owen is expected to continue weakening as it moves east after crossing the Queensland coast near remote Kowanyama on the western Cape York.

The storm brought winds of 120km/h when hitting land as a category 3 system early on Saturday before being downgraded to a category 2 later in the morning.

Kowanyama residents have missed the brunt of Owen, which crossed the southeast Gulf of Carpentaria coast between the 1000-strong community and the Gilbert River Mouth.

"Everything's still intact. I'm pretty happy," mayor Michael Yam told AAP.

Pedestrians walk past the sandbagged entrance of ANZ Bank in Innisfail, Queensland.
Pedestrians walk past the sandbagged entrance of ANZ Bank in Innisfail, Queensland.
AAP

"It was a bit scary when it was heading straight towards as a category 3, but everything's back to normal. I thought we'd get a bit more rain out of it.

"But we're always well prepared. My community takes it very seriously."

The cyclone was moving east at 26km/h towards more populated areas but is expected to be downgraded to a tropical low by Saturday evening.

"It is expected to continue on a south-easterly track towards the east coast of Queensland, arriving between Ingham and Innisfail sometime in the early hours of tomorrow morning," bureau forecaster Nicholas Shera.

A severe weather warning for heavy rain and damaging winds was in place for the north tropical coast, tablelands, peninsula, northern goldfields and surrounding areas.

Heavy rain, with possible falls of 100-200mm within a six-hour period, has sparked fears of flash flooding.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) warned residents check with authorities before leaving shelters or returning home.

Cyclone Owen was downgraded to a category two after crossing the Queensland coast.
Cyclone Owen was downgraded to a category two after crossing the Queensland coast.
AAP

"There is likely to be a number of hazards including fallen trees, power lines, debris and even possible structural damage to infrastructure and it is vital people do not go sightseeing and avoid damaged buildings," QFES assistant commissioner Kevin Walsh said.

"As the severe weather passes and people begin to leave their homes, we're asking everyone to pay attention to traffic signs and road closures, so you don't become stranded across a flooded road."

Ahead of Owen's arrival, more than 60 emergency services staff were sent to Kowanyama and Pormpuraaw, including swift water rescue experts.

Authorities were making sure everyone has a place to shelter, in cyclone-rated buildings. And in coastal areas likely to see wild winds, boats have been ordered back to harbour.

Owen is expected to pose a risk for several days as it tracks across the cape and then down Queensland's eastern coastline over the next few days.

Almost 30 mayors from across the state have been involved in disaster planning meetings.

In central Queensland, there are concerns about possible landslides if heavy rain falls over vast tracts of land denuded by recent bushfires.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch