Australia

Far North Queensland communities go into lockdown as Cyclone Trevor hits

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Cyclone Trevor has been upgraded to a category three system and is due to hit near the Lockhart River in far north Queensland.

Cyclone Trevor has slammed into the north Queensland coast with ferocious winds of more than 200km/h that are ripping trees from the ground.

The powerful category three storm made "howling" landfall at 5pm just south of Lockhart River, one of a handful of towns on the Cape York Peninsula that has been urged to remain indoors until the storm passes.

"It's howling out there," said Lockhart River Mayor Wayne Butcher told AAP just as the storm bore down on the town.

"There is a lot of trees going down around the place, there's been a few trees landing on buildings already and we've got another few hours of strong winds.

"Hopefully everyone stays indoors and we don't get any distress calls."

Businesses, schools and roads are closed throughout the area and the State Emergency Services has deployed crews in towns likely to be affected by the storm's wide path.

A satellite image show Cyclone Trevor over the Northern Territory on Tuesday morning.
A satellite image show Cyclone Trevor over the Northern Territory on Tuesday morning.
BUREAU OF METEOROLOGY

Lockhart River Mayor Wayne Butcher says the community is well-prepared, with elderly residents already moved to safe shelters.

SES area commander Peter Rinaudo said crews were on the ground at other towns in the path of the storm. Areas like Coen, Mapoon and Aurukun could also be hit.

Queensland's Minister for Fire and Emergency Services, Craig Crawford, wants to reassure residents that emergency teams are well prepared to deal with any eventuality.

"We've got a really robust program in Queensland. We do this every single year, multiple times a year. We get very good at it."

He says the wind has already picked up and that everywhere south of Cairns are getting high levels of rain.

"The messaging to everyone up there is very simple. If you don't need to be outdoors, don't be outdoors.

"Be very, very cautious of wind, or rainfall, of flash flooding and seek shelter.

"If you need emergency services, ring triple zero, that's a no-brainer.

But, overnight tonight, if it's still very windy out there, those services may not be able to come. But you will be able to get them on the telephone and they will talk you through any situation."

By daylight tomorrow it is expected that residents will be able to venture outdoors again.

'There's always concern'

Neighbouring Cook Shire Council Mayor Peter Scott has warned residents not to be complacent following three years of dry seasons in the area, saying residents have been warned the cyclone could even be a Category 4 by the time it makes landfall.

"For the last three years we haven't had much rain at all, so people have got a bit complacent about driving up Cape York in the wet season," he told SBS News.

"There's still a lot of gravel up here and a lot of river crossings. In the last big rain event we had three or four weeks ago people did get trapped up there and that entailed us having to do a food supply up to Coen."

Mr Scott believes current restrictions on the Peninsula development road should stop more people getting stuck locally when the heavy rains arrive.

"There's always concern. Initially we were told it's going to be a category two. Now they say it could even be a category four coming through.

"Our main concern is Lockhart River. Having said that, they're well prepared. They've got back-up resources and all the new houses there have been built to withstand a category three cyclone."

There had been fears Trevor would power up to a category four storm before making landfall - but the Bureau of Meteorology now says that is not likely.

The storm will cause abnormally high tides along the coast north of Port Douglas, with some remote and sparsely populated regions predicted to receive up to 400mm of rain in a 24 hour period.

Warnings are in place for Orford Ness to Cape Flattery, extending across the Cape York Peninsula to Pormpuraaw and Mapoon, including Weipa and Coen.

Additional emergency crews, including specialist swift water rescue firefighters, have already been deployed to the region.

Heavy rains are likely to cause many areas to flood with particular warnings for the Daintree and Mossman Rivers.
There is also a flooding risk from Innisfail to Kowanyama.

Police Far North District Chief Superintendent Brian Huxley urged residents to take care in water after the storm passes - alluding to crocodiles and other "wildlife" which may be lurking beneath the surface.

"In particular, things that people might not ordinarily think of such as wildlife which gets displaced, we have all sorts of wildlife up here that we need to be weary of," Chief Supt Huxley said.

He said that on Wednesday morning people would probably start looking to move around and it was very important they took care.

The storm is expected to weaken to a category one system as it crosses the Cape York Peninsula before re-intensifying as it crosses the Gulf of Carpentaria on Wednesday afternoon.

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