By Eric Leister
Over the past few days, Tropical Cyclone Ita strengthened as it moved westward through the Coral Sea, reaching the equivalent of a hurricane.
Ita is expected to strengthen further in the coming days as it tracks westward and then makes a turn toward the south later this week. Ita has the potential contain winds similar to that of a category 3 hurricane as it approaches the coastline of northern Queensland on Friday.
The above satellite image shows Tropical Cyclone Ita on Monday, courtesy of UW-CIMSS.
The expected track will take the cyclone into an area north of Cairns, an area with a lower population than areas further south. This region is known for mining and national parks.
Peak winds at the time of landfall could reach as high as 215 kph (135 mph), leading to down trees and power lines with the potential for some minor structural damage.
As Ita approaches the coastline of Queensland a turn toward the south will occur taking the storm toward Cairns, but also weakening it due to moving inland.
Ita will then continue to the south or southeast just inland across Queensland over the weekend spreading heavy rainfall into Cairns and Townsville. Wind gusts over 50 mph will accompany the storm as it moves southward.
Rainfall will also be a concern as 75-150 mm (3-6 inches) will be common within 100 miles of the coastline from north of Cooktown southward to Mackay. Local amounts over 250 mm (10 inches) will be possible across the region.
The heaviest rainfall can total more than 150 mm (6 inches) near where Ita makes a landfall and along its track over the Cape York Peninsula.
More at AccuWeather: Queensland in Path of Cyclone Ita