Queensland battens down for huge tropical storm

Boats are being ripped from their moorings and washing up on beaches as north Queensland battens down for a huge tropical storm.

The tropical low is about 250km northeast of Townsville and is already packing winds of 120km/h.

The storm is expected to form into a category one cyclone on Thursday afternoon, before it makes landfall somewhere between Lucinda and Proserpine in the early hours of Friday morning.

The Bureau of Meteorology says residents should prepare for damaging wind gusts, heavy rain, which may cause flash flooding, and damaging waves from a dangerous storm tide.

Mayors of the region were preparing on Thursday and said they were most concerned about a king tide that's forecast to combine with the storm surge on Friday morning.

Whitsundays Region Mayor Jennifer Whitney said coastal residents were on alert and local harbours and marinas have been closed.

"In Bowen it's very windy, some boats have actually washed up, broken their anchors," she told AAP from Proserpine.

The storm is due to make landfall in the town of Ayr, and local disaster management co-ordinator Trevor Williams said potential flooding was his biggest concern.

"But we're hoping and expecting it (the water level) not to be high enough to go into houses," Mr Williams told AAP.

Hinchinbrook Mayor Rodger Bow said the region should be just out of the firing line, but said the main town of Ingham could be flooded.

"It is on the cards because we expect a lot of rain," he said.

"But our river is down low and it's been dry, so it all really depends on just how much rain is dumped on us."

Palm Island Mayor Alf Lacey said the island community would have its own unique challenges to deal with and it did not have a cyclone shelter.

"The biggest problem with any low pressure system is rain that comes with it," he told AAP.

"The double whammy for us is if the system moves across in a high-tide situation, then that creates issues for general community infrastructure in low-lying areas."

The state's Fire and Emergency Services is urging people living in the zones to prepare their properties and listen to advice from authorities.

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