Two severe tropical cyclones—each the equivalent of a category three hurricane—are tearing through coastal sections of Australia this morning. The first cyclone made landfall on the country's north coast on Friday morning, while a second more intense cyclone swirls just off the coast of Queensland, north of Brisbane.
Severe Tropical Cyclone Lam made landfall about 250 miles east of Darwin in Northern Territory around 2:00 AM local time on Friday, or 11:00 AM EST Thursday in the United States. Lam had winds of 115 MPH on landfall, which would make the cyclone the equivalent of a category three in the Atlantic. The cyclone came ashore in a relatively unpopulated part of the territory, but Milingimbi Island, home to 1,081 mostly Indigenous people, was directly in the path of the eyewall. The territorial government opened evacuation shelters for towns in the path of the storm.
A little more than a thousand miles to the southeast, Severe Tropical Cyclone Marcia is bearing down on eastern Queensland near St. Lawrence, about 400 miles north-northwest of Brisbane. The cyclone is about as far away from Brisbane as Miami, Florida, is from Savannah, Georgia. Marcia is stronger than Lam, with the latest advisory from the Bureau of Meteorology estimating the cyclone's winds to be near 130 MPH, or the equivalent to a strong category three on the Saffir-Simpson Scale.
Marcia is a relatively compact storm compared to other tropical cyclones; with a diameter of about 140 miles, the storm would fit comfortably inside the state of South Carolina. Marcia looks very healthy on radar and satellite imagery (shown above), and it is heading for landfall in a much more populated area than Lam impacted. Marcia will make landfall in Queensland's Rockhampton Region around 9:00 AM local time with winds at or a little stronger than its current intensity. The region is home to more than 110,000 people, according to never-wrong Wikipedia.
Tropical cyclones are not uncommon around Australia during the summer months. The region's hurricane season typically runs from the beginning of November through the end of April, and waters are warm enough to sustain cyclones that are as strong as category five hurricanes in the Atlantic. The Australian basin has seen four tropical cyclones this year.