QUEENSLAND residents, particularly those in Cairns and Townsville, are being warned to finish cyclone preparations as a weather system in the Coral Sea looks set to bear it's fury down on the region.
The Bureau of Meteorology is predicting the tropical low will form into a cyclone on Sunday before crossing the coast between Cairns and Townsville.
Supermarkets are already stocking up on canned food and other essentials in preparation for a buying frenzy.
Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Mario Torrisi said all models were showing the weather system tracking towards the Queensland coast.
"The coastal crossing location and intensity are still very uncertain but we think it's likely to cross the coast somewhere between Cairns and Mackay but more likely between Cairns and Townsville," he said.
"We're swaying towards the Monday period for the crossing but we'll monitor it closely over the next couple of days."
While there is a greater than 50 per cent chance of the cyclone forming on Sunday, it could intensify as early as today.
The bureau rates a 20 to 50 per cent chance of the cyclone forming tomorrow.
The Townsville Disaster Management Group have been meeting to make preparations. A cruise ship scheduled to dock in the city on Monday night is also on watch for a cyclone.
Yesterday, the system was southeast of the Papua New Guinea mainland and was expected to drift south before turning west towards the tropical Queensland coast.
Cruise ship, the Azamara Journey, is scheduled to dock at Port of Townsville on Monday at 6pm carrying 1000 passengers from North America, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
Port of Townsville manager of corporate affairs Sharon Hoops said the port was "in cyclone prep".
"We'll remain under the guidance of the harbour master," she said.
Mr Torrisi said the looming cyclone could bring with it heavy rainfall.
"It's very dependant on where the system crosses the coast, it's intensity and the size of the system."
"The heaviest rainfall is usually on the southern flank ... but sometimes we get decent falls north if the system if we have a monsoonal trough leaning into it."
Disaster management support officer, acting Senior Sergeant Brenton Webb, said now was the time to finalise preparations.
"We're encouraging people to clean up their yards and check their cyclone kits because the better prepared you are the quicker you recover from incidents like cyclone," he said.
"If it's flooded forget it because we've had a number of incidents recently where people have chosen to ignore the warning and the result have been rescue incidents."
EARLIER: Cyclone to hit between Cooktown and Mackay
A CYCLONE is expected to form off the Queensland coast either later Friday or early Saturday morning although doubt remains about where it will make landfall.
The Bureau of Meteorology says computer models are now telling the same story although they continue to differ on speed and trajectory.
Forecaster Kev Hutchins said the system was expected to come ashore anywhere between Mackay and Cooktown, a distance of 750km by air, but he refused to rule out the possibility it could hit further south.
The system remains a tropical low at this point and would be reclassified only when there was evidence gale force winds were wrapping more than half way around the system.
The necessary ocean water temperatures and absence of strong winds are already in place to allow a vertical system to develop.
Mr Hutchins said it could not be completely ruled out at this stage that the system may wander seaward again which would increase the likelihood of large swells along the Queensland coast.
"We are no clearer on the direction apart from a generally westward movement," he said.
"It will move slowly southward towards the coast. Speed is the issue.
"It will cross the coast not earlier than late Sunday at this stage and possibly as later as early Tuesday.
"It's yet to form into a cyclone and is still a tropical low.
The BOM has issued a cyclone advice relating to the tropical low pressure system located southeast of the Papua New Guinea mainland.
"It is forecast to drift southward for the next 24 to 36 hours, before turning more westward towards the tropical Queensland coast late Friday or on Saturday," the advice states.
"Conditions are favourable for this system to develop, and the probability of it forming into a tropical cyclone will steadily increase into the weekend.
"This system is likely to make landfall on the north tropical Queensland coast early next week."
Likelihood of a tropical cyclone in the Eastern Region on:
- Friday: Low
- Saturday: Moderate
- Sunday: High