Queensland communities are facing the very serious threat of the category five Severe Tropical Cyclone Ita, which should make landfall early this evening.
Ita has been building its strength across the northern Coral Sea during the past week as it slowly approached the Queensland coastline. It became a category five system yesterday afternoon, which is the same category as Yasi, which made landfall in Queensland three years ago. Category five is the highest category of cyclone.
Ita is of a similar strength to Yasi, however it is a slightly smaller system. This means that it will affect a smaller area than Yasi as it makes landfall, however the effects will be just as severe for those near its path.
Ita is currently likely to make landfall between Cape Melville and Cape Flattery during the early evening with only a small chance that it will stay just off the coast for longer.
No matter the track, the system will produce wind gusts to 300km/h as it makes landfall along with heavy rain and storms for the duration of its life, with Cooktown potentially receiving the worst of the system.
The most dangerous aspect of this system is the storm surge. Ita is likely to produce a storm tide in the order of 1-2 metres above the tide level. Unfortunately this may coincide with the usual high tide of 2.4 metres at 7:30pm. It is therefore very likely that tides will exceed the highest astronomical tide for the year. This will then combine with damaging waves, leading to coastal inundation.
Once this system starts interacting with the land it will start to weaken due to the extra friction at the surface and the gradual removal of its fuel source – the very warm tropical waters.
Therefore, if this system stays over water for longer than expected, it will pose a much greater risk to communities such as Port Douglas, Cairns and Townsville.
From Sunday, the system will start tracking to the southeast and away from the Queensland coast, allowing conditions to start easing on Monday, but before then heavy rain and gusty winds will stretch as far south as the Capricornia Coast.
It is very important that those people within the Warning and Watch areas keep a close eye on the updates and have their survival plan ready. http://www.weatherzone.com.au/charts/tropicalcyclone.jsp
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