Penny ’shows signs of weakening’ but could still pack punch
UPDATE 5.30PM: The Bureau of Meteorology says Tropical Cyclone Penny is showing signs of weakening but could still produce wild weather as it approaches the coast next week.
At 4pm Friday, the slow-moving category-two cyclone was 640km east of Willis Island and 1040km east northeast of Townsville.
The BoM advises the system should remain slow moving over the weekend and will most likely turn towards the coast on Saturday.
It should then continue to weaken as it slowly approaches the coast.
The BoM says Penny is unlikely to be an intense system when it reaches the coast but there remains a risk that it will produce gales in coastal areas during next week.
UPDATE 11.30AM: Cyclone Penny, now a category two system, is likely to turn towards the Queensland coast on Saturday with the Far North in its sights.
The Bureau of Meteorology says the system is expected to weaken as it slowly approaches the coast during the week, however there is a risk it will reach the coast at cyclone intensity.
At 10am Friday, Tropical Cyclone Penny was about 1020km northeast of Townsville and had sustained winds of 95kmh, gusting to 130kmh.
Penny is expected to remain off the coast throughout the weekend and into the early part of next week.
EARLIER: Sunny skies over Cairns could be short-lived with Cyclone Penny forecast to retain power as it edges closer to the North Queensland coast in the coming days.
The Bureau of Meteorology's latest cyclone track map has the Category 1 weather system increasing in power to Category 2 by this morning.
It is predicted to maintain strength out on the Coral Sea as it turns southwest back to towards the coast before gradually weakening to a tropical low over the next few days.
"Tropical Cyclone Penny is tracking away from the Queensland coast," the bureau said in a statement.
"At this stage Penny is forecast to weaken as it approaches the coast, however there is still the risk of it maintaining cyclone strength as it nears the coast early next week."
Previous modelling had the cyclone losing strength further out to sea.
Residents in Cape York hope they will miss the brunt of the destructive winds if Penny's strength is prolonged.
In Mapoon yesterday, power was restored, roads were cleared and the general store was restocked with groceries after a blackout lasting more than 24 hours.
Mapoon Aboriginal Shire Council Mayor Aileen Addo said residents were getting fed up with the area's oversensitive power grid.
"We've just had another storm go through and the power went off down where my place is," she said.
"But Ergon is up here so they were quick to fix that.
"Every time we get a storm, the power goes out."
Cr Addo called on the electricity provider to bring crew members to the township when a cyclone was approaching, rather than playing catch-up after the fact.
"I don't know why they don't just fly people in to stay here, the Ergon station here has accommodation," she said.
It is understood Ergon's 10 crew members in Mapoon yesterday were staying overnight in Aurukun about 250km away despite having new purpose-built accommodation at ground zero.
Ergon said the entire township - 97 customers - lost power at the peak of the storm.