By Kristina Pydynowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
By Eric Leister, AccuWeather meteorologist
March 25,2017, 11:05:52AM,EDT
Central Queensland is being put on alert for the danger of a land-falling severe tropical cyclone during the start of the week.Tropical Cyclone Debbie is currently spinning over the Coral Sea, where the environment is conducive for strengthening.
Rapid strengthening may occur, which would allow the cyclone to ramp up to a Category 4 severe tropical cyclone. If this scenario pans out, the cyclone’s strength may peak at the equivalent of a Category 3 hurricane in the eastern Pacific or Atlantic Oceans.
Rain, wind and seas will increase around the cyclone’s center as it strengthens, endangering those with shipping interests.
“This system will continue to track toward the southwest over the next few days with landfall expected near Townsville on Monday,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls.
Residents are urged to review cyclone preparedness plans and begin to make any necessary precautions.
Conditions may start to deteriorate on Sunday with the worst conditions expected late on Sunday night through Monday.
AccuWeather tropical cyclone center
Australia weather center
Timelapse of storm clouds in Australia
“The strength of the winds and extent of damage will depend on the intensity of the storm as it nears the coast,” Nicholls said. “But there can be wind gusts of at least 120 km/h (74 mph) between Cairns and Mackay.”
The hardest-hit areas near landfall could experience sustained winds near 160 km/h (100 mph) with higher gusts. Given the current forecast, this could be in Townsville and the surrounding areas.
These winds would be capable of causing damage to buildings, widespread power outages and life-threatening airborne debris.
"Winds should gradually ease on Tuesday as the cyclone weakens over Queensland, but gusts to 120 km/h (75 mph) are possible as far west as central Queensland," said Nicholls.
Flooding rain will accompany the cyclone well inland and also impact areas far from the direct path of the storm.
Areas south of Cairns to Rockhampton and Gladstone could all have flooding downpours through the early week. Locations as far inland as Hughenden, Tangorin and Muttaburra could also be impacted.
Rainfall of 100-200 mm (4-8 inches) is possible in these areas with local amounts over 300 mm (12 inches) near and just inland from Townsville to Mackay.
A land-falling severe tropical cyclone would also be accompanied by an inundating storm surge near and south of its center. An isolated tornado can spin up, especially east of the cyclone's center.