Ex-Tropical Cyclone Kirrily has left a trail of destruction in its wake as it moves inland and sparks new warnings of flash flooding for central and western Queensland.
The powerful cyclone was downgraded to a tropical low after crossing the coast northwest of Townsville as one of the most powerful systems seen in the north.
On Friday morning, tens of thousands of homes were without electricity and the Bureau of Meteorology said the system could still bring strong winds and heavy rain despite no longer being categorised as a cyclone.
‘It will carry a lot of that moisture with it, gradually pushing it through central and then more western parts of Queensland,’ senior meteorologist Miriam Bradbury said.
Kirrily approached the coast on Thursday night as a severe category three system, producing gusts up to 170km/h.
Tropical Cyclone Kirrily crossing the coast near Townsville. Picture : Supplied/BOM
Supplied Tropical Cyclone Kirrily crosses coast near Townsville as a category 3 system
Its intensity slipped to category two just before making landfall about 10pm and eased to a category one system after moving inland, with maximum gusts of 120km/h about midnight.
‘It was more of a wind event than a rain event,’ Ms Bradbury told ABC News on Friday morning.
‘The rainfall totals only reached 50 to 70mm but plenty of wind damage, with many trees down and debris on the roads and that sort of thing.’
Offshore reefs registered peak gusts up to 140km/h with sustained winds above 116km/h. Closer to the coast the top gusts were 107km/h at Alva Beach and around the Townsville area, 91km/h.
More than 40,000 homes were left without power as the cyclone approached, the majority in Townsville.
Some are expected to remain so yet energy supplier Ergon will only properly begin to assess the damage on Friday morning.
A map shows around 50 separate areas of Townsville without power including much of the CBD
The weather system moved inland as of Friday morning (pictured) leaving a trail of destruction and sparking new warnings from the Bureau of Meteorology for dangerous flash flooding
Kirrily was about 170km west southwest of Townsville and 125km west northwest of Charters Towers and continuing southwest at 24km/h around 4am on Friday.
Boats are reported to be breaking loose from their moorings and getting stranded along the waterfront in Townsville.
In meteorological terms, it’s is believed to be the strongest cyclone to hit Queensland’s north since Cyclone Althea devastated the region in 1971.
The rapidly transforming system lingered in the Coral Sea for days, a tropical low finally developed into Cyclone Kirrily on Wednesday. It was then upgraded to category two on Thursday morning but took just five hours to reach category three status.
North Queensland had bunkered down by 2pm AEST on Thursday as winds intensified.
Townsville airport and more than 120 schools were closed with hundreds of emergency services on standby.
Many Australia Day ceremonies planned for Friday were cancelled while Queensland Rail services north of Rockhampton were suspended.
More than 30,000 homes were already without power late on Thursday amid warnings it could take days to restore electricity in some areas.
Following its coastal crossing, the system is predicted to weaken into a tropical low on Friday.
A severe weather warning has been issued for communities in the system’s path, forecasting intense rainfall which could lead to ‘life-threatening’ flash flooding in some areas.
The Bureau said heavy rainfall which may lead to flash flooding is occurring in the northern parts of the Northern Goldfields and Upper Flinders, North Tropical Coast and Herbert and Lower Burdekin districts.
The intense rain is forecast to extend further inland towards Richmond during Friday and into the northern parts of the Central West district during Friday evening or early Saturday morning.
Six-hour rainfall totals between 80 to 120 mm are likely, with 24-hourly totals up to 180 mm, particularly on the northern flank of the tropical low.
Locally intense which may lead to dangerous and life-threatening flash flooding is also possible on the northern flank of the tropical low.