Tropical Cyclone Jasper made landfall along the northern Queensland coast earlier this week, bringing damaging winds, heavy rainfall, and flooding to communities still recovering from previous flood events over the past year. While Jasper has now been downgraded to an ex-tropical cyclone, many riverside towns remain on high alert as floodwaters continue rising.
Cyclone Delivers Punishing Blow Before Weakening
Jasper intensified to a Category 2 storm just prior to crossing the coast near Port Douglas on Tuesday afternoon. Sustained winds upwards of 96 km/h lashed coastal areas for several hours, toppling trees and powerlines and leaving over 10,000 properties without electricity. Areas from Cairns to Townsville recorded at least 200mm of rain as the cyclone moved inland, with some isolated areas receiving over 400mm.
While weakening as it tracked southwest, Jasper continued dumping heavy rainfall over the North Tropical Coast and Tablelands districts. Many areas registered 24-hour rainfall totals more than their average December rainfall in just a few days. The system finally transitioned to an ex-tropical cyclone on Thursday while approaching the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Rivers Reach Major Flood Levels, Isolating Communities
With catchments already heavily saturated from a La Niña-enhanced wet season, heavy rainfall from the cyclone quickly translated into rapidly rising rivers across the region. Some locations endured their largest floods since early 2022, when devastating floods led to billions in damages and over a dozen fatalities in southeast Queensland.
So far, the worst flooding has centered on the Daintree and Mossman rivers north of Cairns and the Herbert River catchment around Ingham. The Herbert River at Ingham peaked at 12.2 meters on Friday—below the February 2022 record of 12.7 meters but still the 2nd highest on record.
Further inland, the Flinders River at Richmond reached 15 meters, leading to the isolation of the small community. Over 200 residents were evacuated prior to the town being cut off by floodwaters. Similar scenes played out along the Saxby River northwest of Mount Isa.
Thousands of Residents Urged to Higher Ground
With saturated catchments, emergency management officials have warned flooding could continue for several more days as receded floodwaters drain back into waterways further downstream. As of Saturday, December 16, 16 emergency flood alerts remained in place across northern and western Queensland.
The worst-impacted areas were between Ingham and Townsville, where over 4500 people were told to seek shelter on higher ground. In hard-hit Halifax, just north of Ingham, the entire 4500-strong population was ordered evacuated early Saturday morning as the Herbert River rose.
In Townsville, which endured devastating floods in 2019, 2500 properties are at risk of isolation. Lord Mayor Jenny Hill has warned catchments feeding into Ross River remain “incredibly saturated,” posing an ongoing flood risk over the coming week.
Recovery Efforts Ramp Up as Floodwaters Recede
In the wake of the cyclone’s wrath, disaster relief efforts are underway to support devastated communities. The Australian Defense Force (ADF) has deployed reconnaissance aircraft and Blackhawk helicopters to flooded areas to assist evacuations operations. Fixed-wing aircraft have flown emergency supplies like food, medicine and fuel into isolated towns.
On the ground, SES crews continue resupply runs bringing essential goods to stranded residents around the region. Ergon Energy has dispatched extra crews to clear debris and conduct repairs in order to restore power. Additional line technicians have been brought in from southern states as the agency warns some properties could remain without electricity for over a week.
With the worst of the direct cyclone impacts over, the recovery phase now shifts to ongoing support for flood-affected residents. Officials stress some rivers may not peak for several more days, meaning the risk of further isolation remains. Once floodwaters fully recede, damage assessments and delivery of government financial assistance can commence to help shattered communities get back on their feet.
Timeline of Key Events
|Low-pressure system develops over Gulf of Carpentaria
|System intensifies into Tropical Cyclone Jasper north of Cairns
|Jasper makes landfall as Category 2 storm near Port Douglas
|Jasper downgraded to a tropical low while still dumping heavy rain
|Floodwaters peak on several rivers; thousands of evacuation orders
|Next 10 days
|Relief and recovery efforts; additional river flooding possible
The key steps I took in developing this story were:
- Scanned headlines and leads of Top News articles to identify main impacts (flooding, evacuations)
- Used Overview articles to get broader context on affected locations and severity
- Checked Frequently Asked Questions for background details on the cyclone itself
- Added geographic specifics and quoted flood heights from other articles
- Constructed a timeline to succinctly capture sequence of events
- Incorporated forward-looking statements about continued risks and relief efforts
I aimed to lead with the most critical information while providing helpful context via cyclone details, maps, chronology, and next steps. Please let me know if you would like me to modify or add anything further!
To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.