Flood-hit regions brace after cyclone warning issued

Laine Clark and Neve Brissenden |

Queensland has already weathered two cyclones this summer and there’s a moderate chance of a third.
Queensland has already weathered two cyclones this summer and there’s a moderate chance of a third.

People have been evacuated from rain-lashed communities in Australia’s north as flood-hit regions brace for another cyclone threat.

A cyclone warning has been issued, with Gulf of Carpentaria coastal areas set to be hit hard by gale force winds and heavy rain.

A low in the Gulf is considered a “moderate” chance of developing into a tropical cyclone as early as Thursday night.

A cyclone watch was on Thursday upgraded to a warning for Gulf coastal areas from Port Roper in the Northern Territory to Burketown in Queensland’s northwest.

In the NT people have been evacuated from the Beswick community south of Katherine with gale force winds set to hit the cyclone warning region by late Friday.

Residents on Groote Eylandt in the Gulf were already reporting heavy rain and wind gusts on Thursday, with flood warnings also issued for the Katherine River.

The cyclone will be named Lincoln if it forms, the Bureau of Meteorology said.

Winds up to 100km/h and isolated falls beyond 200mm may impact the cyclone warning area in the coming days, prompting evacuations at Burketown.

Burke Shire Mayor Ernie Camp said they were not taking any chances, with the community still recovering from flooding caused by ex-cyclone Kirrily.

About 50 vulnerable residents overall were set to be airlifted out of Burketown which has already been isolated for a month.

It is now bracing for what would be the third cyclone in as many months to impact Queensland.

The state’s Gulf region is still reeling from widespread flooding caused by ex-cyclone Kirrily which crossed the Queensland coast just weeks ago.

And Tropical Cyclone Jasper caused record flooding in the far north in mid-December.

Flooding in Burketown, Queensland.
Burketown residents face another cyclone threat after copping severe flooding in March 2023. (HANDOUT/QLD POLICE)

Mr Camp said another cyclone threat had left locals feeling drained, with many still counting the cost of unprecedented flooding that devastated the region in March 2023.

“We are proactive because during the 2023 event our airstrip went under water – it was the first time in living history,” Mr Camp told AAP.

The bureau said there was only a “small window” for the low to develop into a tropical cyclone, with the system set to move southwest, cross the coast and move onshore by Friday.

“If this is not a tropical cyclone by the time it does work its way onto land it will not develop into a tropical cyclone after that,” the bureau’s Angus Hines said.

However he warned that even if didn’t become a cyclone, “significant weather” including damaging winds were set to hit Gulf coastal areas.

There are flood watches current in northwest Queensland.

“Of particular concern are the Doomadgee and Burketown regions where many roads are closed and communities are still isolated,” Mr Hines said.

Mr Camp said those who remained at Burketown had been boosted by fresh supplies delivered by plane this week.

But many are wary of spending more time isolated, prompting calls for the state and federal government to improve remote road infrastructure.

“It can get physically and mentally draining to have another major event so close together,” Mr Camp said.

“People living here accept what Mother Nature brings but it does leave us vulnerable.

“We need to push the powers that be for better road infrastructure. My fear is that young families will leave or won’t be attracted to this area after access has been cut off for so long.”