Residents of tourist towns in Australia‘s northeast on Thursday braced for flash flooding after Tropical Cyclone Jasper tore through the region, uprooting trees, leaving tens of thousands without power, and forcing evacuations and road closures.
Jasper pummelled the far north regions of Queensland state, home to several resorts along the world-famous Great Barrier Reef, after making landfall on Wednesday as a Category 2 storm, three rungs below the most dangerous wind speed level.
The storm, now downgraded to a tropical low, was tracking in a northwesterly direction toward the Gulf of Carpentaria, where it could intensify back to cyclonic strength over the weekend, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said in its latest update.
Despite the downgrade of the storm, the weather bureau warned residents in cyclone-hit regions that heavy rain was forecast there over the next 24 hours.
“This is an evolving situation and the rain hasn’t stopped yet and it’s likely to continue well into today and into this evening as well,” Laura Boekel, senior forecaster at the Bureau of Meteorology, said at a media briefing.
Some regions could pick up about 300 mm (a foot) of rain, raising the prospects of “life-threatening flash flooding,” Boekel said.
About 40,000 properties are without power, operator Ergon Energy said. Television footage showed streets stacked with snapped trees and emergency crews looking to clear the debris.
Eight people stranded on the roof of a house were rescued from a flooded street near Port Douglas, local media reported.
Flights from Cairns Airport, the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, could resume later on Thursday, officials said.
As authorities plan clean-up operations in the north, large swathes of neighbouring New South Wales state, in contrast, is bracing for a severe heat wave on Thursday, with temperatures set to hit around 40 degrees Celsius (104°F). A total fire ban has been issued for the Greater Sydney region.
Australia is under the influence of the El Nino phenomenon this summer, which can provoke extreme weather phenomena from wildfires to tropical cyclones and prolonged droughts.