Cyclone Ita Likely to Intensify to Category 5 as It Hits Australia

Thursday, 10 Apr 2014 12:16 PM

By Michael Mullins

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Cyclone Ita, the powerful tropical storm bearing down on Australia's northeast coast, is expected to hit the Queensland's coast early Friday local time and is likely to increase in intensity to Category 5.

Currently considered a strong Category 4 hurricane, with wind gusts of up to 177 miles per hour, the Australia Bureau of Meteorology predicts Cyclone Ita will become a Category 5 severe tropical cyclone when it makes landfall, Weather.com reported.

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"The big concerns people need to prepare for are a storm surge, which means in low-lying areas water much higher potentially than normal tides," Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said as he urged people to prepare for the storm, the BBC noted.

Cyclone Ita poses a significant threat to communities located along the far north Queensland coast, Australian weather officials warned, with upwards of 9,000 residents in the path of the storm, The Guardian reported.

"If it was to cross in a major urban area, it could do a lot of damage to buildings and produce quite a substantial surge and impact low-lying, coastal properties," James Cook University Prof. Jon Nott, who studies the long-term patterns of cyclones, told The Wall Street Journal.

Towns that are directly in the storm's path include Cooktown, Port Douglas and Cairns.

The storm could also hurt Australia's sugar cane crop, 95 percent of which is located in Queensland, The Wall Street Journal noted.

As Cyclone Ita makes its way further inland, the storm is expected to bring surging flood waters and powerful winds to other areas of Northeastern Australia.

According to the Australia Bureau of Meteorology, the Tropical cyclone season typically runs November through April, Weather.com reported.

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