The cyclone is brewing in the Gulf of Carpentaria and is expected to develop into a category four system as it slowly approaches the coast.
Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Todd Smith said the cyclone could strengthen to a category five with winds of more than 300km/h.
Even as a much smaller and weaker storm in the Coral Sea, Trevor generated four-metre waves. According to experts, it’s likely to create much larger waves and a significant storm surge the second time around, when it makes landfall on Saturday.
BOM’s latest advice is that the system will continue to intensify in the Gulf of Carpentaria. “A severe impact on the southwestern Gulf of Carpentaria coast is likely over the weekend,” the bureau said.
A flood watch was issued for the Carpentaria Coastal Rivers and Barkly regions with predicted rainfalls of 150-250mm on Saturday and isolated falls to 300mm along the coast on dry ground following a poor wet season.
Tropical Cyclone Trevor will continue to intensify in the Gulf of Carpentaria. A severe impact on the southwestern Gulf of Carpentaria coast is likely over the weekend. #CycloneTrevor https://t.co/AWJKLhynnl pic.twitter.com/lmaRTZDfo1
— Bureau of Meteorology, Northern Territory (@BOM_NT) March 21, 2019
More than 1000 residents have been evacuated from Groote Eylandt and Numbulwar with another 1000 people being moved out of Borroloola, the McArthur River zinc mine, Robinson River and other communities all along the Gulf of Carpentaria coast to Queensland.
The severity and threat of the storm, as well as complications with the remoteness of the area, led to the decision to evacuate, Chief Minister Michael Gunner said on Thursday.
A state of emergency has been declared in the Gulf country, with schools closed and police can order people to evacuate and close roads and businesses.
It’s the largest evacuation prior to a cyclone in the territory’s history and largest type of any evacuation since Cyclone Tracy.
The entire NT Gulf coast is on flood watch with gale-force winds, heavy rain and storm surges extending 300km from the eye of the cyclone.
“As Cyclone Trevor tracks across the Gulf of Carpentaria, the Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting that the cyclone will make landfall between Borroloola and Groote Eylandt during Saturday as a category four severe tropical cyclone,” he told reporters.
“Marine conditions in the gulf are deteriorating from (yesterday) morning.”
Very destructive winds, with gusts to 260km/h, heavy rainfall and a dangerous storm tide are expected near the cyclone centre as it approaches and crosses the coast, Mr Smith said.
Rainfall totals of 100mm to 200mm per day will hit ground “hard-baked” by the drought in recent months, meaning likely flash flooding that will affect pastoralists.
Mr Smith has not ruled out the storm strengthening to a category five with winds of more than 300km/h.
The last time a cyclone this strong hit the Territory was Cyclone Lam in 2015 but Trevor is far bigger, according to Mr Smith.
Australian Defence Force Hercules’ aircraft are being used to transport people, who have begun arriving in Darwin and Katherine where indoor sleeping facilities are being set up at local showgrounds.
That includes creating barriers to ensure indigenous cultural protocols are followed and people are spoken to in local languages.
“We’ve used buses, vehicles, ferries, planes, helicopters and anything else in between we can get out hands on,” police regional controller Travis Wurst said.
About 600 out of Groote Eylandt’s population of 2800 have been evacuated but authorities are now focusing on Borroloola, with a population of 900. The evacuations are starting with the most vulnerable and people who are not evacuated in time will be moved into emergency shelters.
“We have the capacity and capability to look after them as long as we need to, until water and power are safe again and houses are habitable again,” Mr Gunner said.
Trevor left behind trail of destruction in Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula earlier this week, uprooting trees, caused flooding and roof damage, closed schools and roads and downed power lines.
Trevor lashed the Aurukun community on Wednesday and some 180 homes remained without power on Thursday as residents began cleaning up.
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