Cyclone Jasper crosses Australia’s east coast as category 2 storm with 87 mph winds


Tropical Cyclone Jasper crossed Australia’s northeast coast on Wednesday as a category 2 storm that lashed the sparsely populated region with winds of up to 87 mph.

Jasper had intensified from a category 1 storm on a 5-tier scale before it became the first cyclone of the current season to hit Australia, Queensland state Deputy Premier Steven Miles said.

The cyclone crossed near the Aboriginal community of Wujal Wujal, 68 miles north of Cairns, a city of 160,000.

A resident watches the storm across the Coral Sea as Cyclone Jasper approaches landfall in Cairns in far north Queensland on Dec. 13, 2023. AFP via Getty Images
A bar restaurant is seen past fallen branches in Palm Cove as Cyclone Jasper approaches landfall near Cairns in far north Queensland on Dec. 13, 2023. AFP via Getty Images

Wujal Wujal has a population of 300 but it was not immediately clear how many residents had evacuated.

There were no immediate reports of injury and damage had yet to be assessed.

“The message to Cairns locals and those in the warning area is to take shelter now,” Miles told reporters in Townsville as the eye of the storm approached land.

This image made from video show people walking through high winds in Cairns, Australia on Dec. 13, 2023. AP

“Now is not the time to be moving around,” he added.

Emergency responders had received 150 requests for help hours before the cyclone reached the Queensland shore from the Coral Sea.

Around 15,000 homes and businesses in the cyclone’s path had lost power, Miles said.

The cyclone is expected to cross the Queensland coast somewhere from the city of Cairns north to Hope Vale. via REUTERS

Miles had flown 680 miles from the Queensland capital Brisbane to Townsville on Wednesday so he would be closer to survey the damage when the sun rises on Thursday.

More than 90 people had left their homes for evacuation centers by Wednesday, officials said.

They said the residents of low-lying areas in the cyclone’s path who did not feel safe should move early to evacuation centers, before conditions deteriorated.

Powerful winds are seen uprooting trees on the northeast Australian coast, as Tropical Cyclone Jasper gathered strength while approaching the area on Dec. 13, 2023. AP

Government meteorologist Laura Boeke said flash flooding posed the greatest threat as Jasper crossed the coast.

While the winds were expected to weaken quickly as the cyclone moved inland, flooding rains could continue for days.

“There is a risk of riverine flooding as well as storm surge,” Boeke said. “We will … see a large amount of damage.”

Cairns Mayor Terry James urged residents to prepare for up to five days without power.

“The roads will be cut off. Potentially the power will be cut off,” he said.

Trees around Cairns began to topple in winds as strong as strong as 51 mph by early Wednesday.

Cairns Airport closed late Tuesday due to the worsening weather.

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