Warning for parts of Qld as ex-cyclone moves closer
UPDATE: Forecasters are warning damaging winds and heavy rainfall could hit Townsville and surrounding towns as a cyclonic system moves closer to the coast.
The Bureau of Meteorology issued a severe weather warning at 5.02am today for people in Townsville, Proserpine, Bowen, Hamilton Island, Ingham and Innisfail.
It comes as ex-Tropical Cyclone Iris moves closer to the coast of Queensland.
The bulk of the heavy rainfall is expected to start tonight.
"At 4am ex-Tropical Cyclone Iris was located about 400km east-northeast of Cairns and moving slowly south-southwest at 8km/h," the bureau warned.
"It is expected to move southward and track closer to the coast today and Tuesday. There remains some level of uncertainty regarding its movement and development over the coming days.
"Damaging winds, with peak gusts in excess of around 100km/h, may develop about the coast, islands and higher terrain within the warning area during Monday evening or Tuesday morning.
"Heavy rain, which may lead to flash flooding, is also expected to develop from Monday evening.
"Six hour totals of 100 to 150m are likely with local falls up to 250mm possible. 24 hour totals of 200 to 300mm are expected."
Overnight the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre, forecaster for the United States Navy and United States Air Force, issued an alert that a "significant tropical cyclone" could form from the system.
If the cyclone does reform it will be renamed.
EARLIER: Gale force winds and torrential rain are expected to hit Townsville tomorrow as emergency services urge people to prepare for severe weather.
The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting a "moderate" chance of a low-pressure system off the North Queensland coast forming into a tropical cyclone between Cairns and Rockhampton tomorrow or Wednesday.
Swift Water Rescue crews have been deployed to Townsville and other parts of North Queensland.
Fire and Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford said the specialist crews were being strategically positioned between Cairns and Rockhampton.
"While local capability and capacity is very strong, ex-Tropical Cyclone Iris is continuing to track towards Queensland, and could bring heavy rainfall and gale force winds from late tomorrow," Mr Crawford said.
"Extra crews have been deployed to bolster the response capability.
"These crews can be moved to areas most likely to be impacted by heavy rain as the track of the weather system becomes clearer."
BOM forecaster Nicholas Shera said heavy rainfall and wind gusts were expected to hit between Innisfail and Proserpine tonight.
"We will have some gale force winds in offshore waters off Townsville and they are at this stage going to come in further towards the coast during Tuesday," he said.
"We are still looking at a moderate chance on Tuesday or Wednesday of the low forming into a cyclone.
"Regardless of whether or not it becomes a cyclone it still has very high impact in terms of gale force winds and rainfall."
Mr Shera said parts of Townsville could expect up to 200mm in a 24-hour period over the next few days.
He said most of the region was likely to get between 75mm and 100mm in a 24-hour period, but rainfall could last several days.
"We're looking at a possibility over a few days of several hundred millimetres of rainfall," Mr Shera said. "The main rainfall will be between Cairns and Rockhampton, so Townsville is very much within that area."
QFES far northern region assistant commissioner John Bolger said it was important residents and visitors prepared for the heavy rain and strong winds.
"People should be aware of the weather situation by monitoring the Bureau of Meteorology and local media for updates, and have a plan in place in case the situation changes quickly," Mr Bolger said.
"Talk to your family about what you will do if you need to evacuate. Know where you will go, what you will take, and what you will do with your pets.
"Make sure you have an emergency kit stocked, including non-perishable food, water, first aid and personal supplies, clothing, torches, a battery-operated radio and important documents."
Moderate to major flooding is possible, particularly in areas that have received heavy rainfall in the past few weeks.
Catchments including the Herbert River, Tully River, Ross and Bohle rivers could all be affected by the system.
The Ross River Dam is currently at 94 per cent capacity.