As Queensland and other Australian states recover from catastrophic flooding, a new threat is heading for Queensland—Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi.
According to the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), Yasi was a category 3 storm at 4 a.m. Tuesday local time, located approximately 2,000 kilometers east northeast of Townsville, and moving west at 40 kilometers per hour (25 mph).
BOM warned that Yasi is expected to intensify as it travels across the Coral Sea and will probably hit the coast of far north Queensland late on Wednesday, Feb. 2. Wind speeds are predicted to exceed 250km per hour (155 mph), and a large storm surge is likely.
All ports from Mackay to Cairns, a distance spanning around 450 miles (about 1,245 miles), will be closed from late Tuesday, with residents in some low-lying suburbs being evacuated by Emergency Management Queensland. Forecasters are predicting that even communities as far inland as Mount Isa could experience cyclonic conditions.
"All those in low lying/waterfront areas from Cairns to Mackay need to relocate today TC Yasi will see storm surge flooding—stay safe," said Queensland Premier Anna Bligh via her Twitter account on Tuesday morning.
Speaking after a meeting of the state disaster management group on Tuesday, Bligh told reporters that Yasi's strength could rival that of Cyclone Larry, a category 4 system that devastated north Queensland's coast in 2006, damaging approximately 10,000 homes and causing around $1.5 billion in damage.
"This of course is not only a system now tracking as more intense than Cyclone Larry, it is significantly larger than Cyclone Larry," Bligh said.
NASA's Terra satellite captured an image of Yasi early Monday morning in Australia, revealing a well-formed storm but without a visible eye. On its website, BOM's latest satellite image late on Jan. 31 shows a system similar in size to the entire state of Queensland.
Elsewhere in Australia, flood warnings are still current in southern Queensland, New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria.
BOM has also issued fire weather warnings and fire bans in NSW, Victoria, Australian Capital Territory and South Australia with temperatures in some areas expected to hit around 40 degrees celsius and wind speeds to average 40km per hour.