Tropical Cyclone Debbie Develops East of Queensland

The low level circulation of a tropical low east of Queensland continued to organize on Friday and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology designated the system as Tropical Cyclone Debbie early on Saturday.  At 11:00 p.m. EDT on Friday the center of Tropical Cyclone Debbie was located at latitude 17.4°S and longitude 151.9°E which put it about 360 miles (580 km) east-northeast of Townsville, Australia.  Debbie was moving toward the southwest at 6 m.p.h. (9 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 50 m.p.h. (80 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 65 m.p.h. (105 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 992 mb.

The low level circulation of Tropical Cyclone Debbie continued to consolidate around the center of circulation on Friday.  Numerous bands of thunderstorms were revolving around the center of circulation and an eye-like feature appeared on satellite imagery at various times.  The structure of the circulation was fairly symmetrical, although there were more bands of showers and thunderstorms in the eastern half of Debbie.  Thunderstorms near the core of the circulation were generating upper level divergence, which was pumping out mass in all directions.

Tropical Cyclone Debbie is moving through an environment that is very favorable for intensification.  Debbie is moving over water where the Sea Surface Temperature is near 30°C.  The upper level winds are very weak and there is almost no vertical wind shear.  Tropical Cyclone Debbie should continue to intensify and it could intensify very rapidly once a well developed inner core forms around an eye.  Tropical Cyclone Debbie could strengthen into the equivalent of a major hurricane in two or three days.

A subtropical ridge over northern Australia is steering Tropical Cyclone Debbie toward the southwest and a general southwesterly or west-southwesterly motion is expected to continue for the next two or three days.  On its anticipated track Tropical Cyclone Debbie could approach the coast of Queensland near Townsville in about 72 hours.  Debbie could be the equivalent of a major hurricane when it approaches the coast.