Tropical Cyclone Ita made landfall just north of Cooktown, Australia, Friday night, local time. The Queensland coast from Cape Flattery to Cairns lies in the direct path of Ita.
The center passed very near Cape Flattery, where a wind gust to 96 mph was measured. However, the instruments failed before the stronger northern eyewall passed over the station. Also, according to the Australia Bureau of Meteorology, a minimum pressure of 955mb was recorded.
The latest satellite imagery indicates that slight weakening occurred prior to landfall. However, Ita will remain a dangerous, powerful storm for the next 12-24 hours as it moves just inland from the coast.
Cooktown has reported more than 125 mm (5 inches) so far with more heavy rainfall expected as Ita moves southward just inland from the coastline.
Ita made landfall with the equivalent strength of a Category 4 hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean. Australia, which uses a different intensity scale than the U.S., indicates Ita was a Category 5 cyclone, the highest level before weakening to a Category 4 cyclone prior to landfall.
Devastating impacts are likely. Peak winds near the center of the cyclone at the time of landfall ranged from 200 to 225 kph (120 to 140 mph), strong enough to down trees and power lines with the potential for widespread structural damage.
Ita made landfall north of Cairns, an area with a lower population than locations farther south. This region is known for mining and national parks.
Although Ita will weaken as it approaches Cairns, due to land interaction, flooding rainfall and hurricane-force winds are expected. Conditions began to deteriorate around Cairns on Friday with the worst of the storm expected Friday night into Saturday.
Ita will then continue to the southeast near or just off the coast of Queensland over the weekend, spreading heavy rainfall into Townsville and Mackay. Wind gusts over 50 mph will accompany the storm as it moves farther southeast and away from Cairns.
Rainfall will also be a major concern as 75-150 mm (3-6 in) will be common within 100 km of the coastline from north of Cooktown southward to Mackay. Local amounts over 250 mm (10 in) will be possible across the region, especially from Cairns northward.
By Monday the cyclone will be in a much weakened state as it moves farther southeast off the coast of Queensland with no further widespread damaging winds or flooding rainfall expected over land.