Cyclone battering Far North Queensland to intensify
A Category 1 tropical cyclone that is pummelling the Far North Queensland coast is likely to intensify in the next 24 hours with neighbouring New Zealand and Papua New Guinea on high alert it could be headed their way.
Cyclone Nivan intensified into a Category 1 cyclone from a tropical low off the Australian coast early this morning and meteorologists anticipate it will increase to a severe Category 3 in the next 24 to 48 hours.
Queensland's Bureau of Meterology (BoM) revealed the intense weather system about 235km north-east off the coast of Cairns has brought damaging winds and heavy rain to coastal towns with emergency crews kept busy as 40,000 homes were without electricity this morning after powerlines were brought down by high winds and trees falling on houses.
9News captured vision of collapsed banana plantations around Innisfail following destructive winds.
Floodwaters cut off some communities from road access including Halifax, just east of Ingham, where the Herbert River neared five metres just after 9 this morning.
The coastal town of Lucinda is also cut off from the rest of Queensland after it received 259mm of rain in less than 24 hours.
Queensland Police has urged people not to drive through flood water in affected areas.
The BoM has also advised residents between Cape Flattery and Lucinda to "take precautions" and stay on alert for advice.
Further north near Cairns, cyclonic winds pose the greatest threat.
Wind gusts up to 140km/h have already been recorded and the BoM has warned they could get worse.
"Heavy rainfall and gale-force winds are expected to continue into Tuesday, as the system gradually shifts its direction of movement and heads back eastwards into the Coral Sea," a Weatherzone spokesman said.
The extreme conditions have also forced 38 schools in Far North Queensland to close today.
Meteorologists believe current conditions are the "perfect breeding ground" for Niran to grow into a Category 3 by Thursday.
"Cyclone Niran is lying over very warm sea water, with surface temperatures around 29 to 30 degrees Celsius, this will really help fuel the storm," WeatherWatch.co.nz's head forecaster Philip Duncan warned New Zealand.
Mr Duncan said Niran is likely to drift south eastwards towards New Caledonia with a direct hit likely for the French territory.
He said high pressure in the Tasman Sea should protect New Zealand, but with the south east track of the storm, if a predicted high pressure system doesn't eventuate, upper parts of the North Island could be vulnerable next week.
Southern parts of Papua New Guinea are also at risk in coming days wit the Gulf, Central and Milne Bay Provinces on high alert.
According to Weatherzone, a "coastal crossing is unlikely", but gale force winds, heavy rain and abnormally high tides could continue to hit parts of the northern tropical coast over the next two days.
The weather system is moving in a north-east direction away from the coast at about 15km/h, bringing some relief to residents.
The BoM said the trough will be pushed westwards by a strengthening ridge along the coast from today.
Wild weather is also forecast to hit Western Australia today.
Showers and thunderstorms will cover most of the state away from the south coast.
13:55 EDT14:00 EDT14:05 EDT14:10 EDT14:15 EDT14:20 EDT14:25 EDT
For cyclone preparedness and safety advice, visit Queensland's Disaster Management Serviceswebsiteor for emergency assistance, call the Queensland State Emergency Service (SES) on 132 500.