(Bloomberg) -- Australia’s northeast coast is bracing for a potential cyclone that could make landfall in Queensland, the nation’s top sugar producer.
Severe Tropical Cyclone Jasper is currently a category 4 storm and is expected to approach the coast around the middle of next week, according to a notice from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. The weather system is still far from land and the agency said the timing of a coastal impact remains uncertain.
Jasper is forecast to pass close to Willis Island, which is about 450 kilometers (280 miles) east of Cairns in the Coral Sea and home to a weather station. Logistics are in place to evacuate the four bureau staff from the site on Saturday morning, according to a spokesperson from the agency.
Australia’s cyclone season typically runs from November to April, and the bureau is expecting a below average number of tropical storms in 2023–24. The highest risk of impact from Jasper lies between Cape Melville and Townsville, including Cairns and Cooktown, according to the weather agency.
The sugarcane harvest is either complete or almost finished in most districts, but there are a few regions behind schedule that could potentially be impacted by the cyclone, depending on its severity and where it hits, according to a spokesman from industry group Canegrowers.
The Tully, Mackay and Plane Creek regions will still be cutting cane next week, he said. Queensland accounts for about 95% of Australia’s sugar output, with most of the sweetener exported to nations including South Korea and Indonesia.
The last cyclone that crossed the Queensland coast as a severe storm was Debbie in March 2017, which made landfall as a category 4, according to the bureau. It devastated resort islands including Hamilton and Daydream, as well as the towns of Airlie Beach and Proserpine, and led to major flooding.
(Updates with plan to evacuate weather bureau staff from Willis Island.)
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