By Kristina Pydynowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
By Eric Leister, AccuWeather meteorologist
By Adam Douty, AccuWeather meteorologist
March 27,2017, 9:40:40PM,EDT
Parts of central and northern Queensland remain on alert for the landfall of dangerous Severe Tropical Cyclone Debbie early this week.Tropical Cyclone Debbie is currently spinning near the coast with the eye of the storm nearing landfall. Wind gusts of over 260 km/h (160 mph) have been measured at Hamilton Island.
Debbie rapidly strengthened into a Category 4 severe tropical cyclone by Monday evening, posing a serious risk to lives and property along and near the Queensland coastline from Townsville to Mackay.
One death has already been blamed on the cyclone as a tourist was killed amid stormy weather between Bowen and Mackay on Monday, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Some additional strengthening is expected to occur prior to landfall on Tuesday morning. If this scenario pans out, the cyclone’s strength would be the equivalent of a Category 3 hurricane in the eastern Pacific or Atlantic Ocean.
Rain, wind and rough seas will continue into Tuesday endangering those with shipping interests.
More lives and property will be threatened as the cyclone takes aim at the central coast of Queensland.
Debbie will continue to track slowly to the southwest through the beginning of the week. An eventual landfall is expected between Townsville and Mackay early Tuesday morning.
Residents are urged to review cyclone preparedness plans and heed local emergency information.
Conditions will rapidly deteriorate on Monday night, with the worst conditions expected on Tuesday.
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,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls said. “But there can be wind gusts of at least 120 km/h (74 mph) between Townsville and Mackay.”
The hardest-hit areas near landfall could experience several hours of sustained winds near 160 km/h (100 mph) with higher gusts. Bowen and Proserpine are communities that are expected to endure some of the worst conditions.
These winds would be capable of causing damage to buildings, widespread power outages and life-threatening airborne debris.
"Winds should gradually ease on Tuesday afternoon and evening as the cyclone weakens over Queensland, but gusts to 120 km/h (75 mph) are possible as far west as Charters Towers and Mount Coolon," said Nicholls.
Flooding rain will accompany the cyclone well inland and also impact areas far from the direct path of the storm.
Areas from Townsville to Rockhampton and Gladstone could all have flooding downpours through the early week. Locations as far inland as Hughenden, Tangorin and Muttaburra could get downpours on Tuesday night and Wednesday, though flooding is expected to remain farther to east.
Flinders Highway (A6) in eastern Queensland, as far west as Torrens Creek, could have closures due to flooding. Bowen Developmental Road (Queensland Route 77) could also be heavily impacted by flooding.
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 landfalling severe tropical cyclone would also be accompanied by an inundating storm surge near and south of its center. A storm surge of 2-3 meters (6-10 feet) is expected, resulting in significant coastal flooding.
An isolated tornado can spin up, especially east of the cyclone's center.