In this image provided by the Queensland Police Service, a police vehicle is blocked by a fallen tree in north Queensland, Australia, Wednesday, December 13, 2023. The first tropical cyclone to hit Australia in the current season has weakened to a Low pressure system, but continues to hit the northeast coast with torrential rain. More than 30,000 homes and businesses are without power. (Queensland Police Service via AP)

CANBERRA, Australia — The first tropical cyclone to hit Australia this season weakened to a low pressure system but continued to batter the northeast coast on Thursday with torrential rain and left nearly 40,000 homes and businesses without power.

Cyclone Jasper crossed the coast of Queensland state on Wednesday night as a Category 2 storm on a five-level scale that hit the sparsely populated region with winds of up to 140 km/h (87 mph).

The cyclone passed close to the Aboriginal community of Wujal Wujal, 110 kilometers (68 miles) north of the city of Cairns, although many of its 300 residents were evacuated before Jasper's landfall.

Katrina Hewitt, who runs tourist accommodation in Wujal Wujal and did not evacuate, said the community was largely unharmed except for damaged trees.

“It looks amazing. No flooding, no building failures,” Hewitt said.

“It was a big waiting game. We just didn’t know what was going to happen,” she said.

Hewitt expected Wujal Wujal to be isolated for days due to fallen trees blocking roads.

Winds quickly diminished as the storm tracked west across land, but heavy rain was forecast to continue on Thursday with a risk of flooding.

Several roads were closed by fallen trees and flooding.

Emergency services officers rescued 12 people and a dog from floodwaters in the town of Mossman, Queensland government minister Cameron Dick said.

Nearly 40,000 homes and businesses lost power, representing 25% of electricity customers in the cyclone-affected area, Dick said.

Government forecaster Angus Hines said some weather stations in the region reported more than 40 centimeters (16 inches) of rain in the 24 hours to Thursday morning.

“The rain that is coming now is falling in places that are already saturated. It’s falling into rivers that are already full and high,” Hines said.

Jasper progressed overland relatively slowly, at around 10 khp (6 mph)

Betty Hinton, who runs an ice cream shop in the village of Daintree, estimated that the tip of the cyclone's eye passed directly over her house during a sleepless night.

“The fact that it was traveling so slowly was very trying,” Hinton said. “I’ve been in cyclones before, a much stronger cyclone than Jasper, and it wasn’t as painful.”

“This case went on and on and there just didn’t seem to be any relief, so for 14 hours we were hit here and then it started pouring rain,” she said.

Hinton said his home was built to withstand the strongest cyclones and was not damaged.

Cairns airport closed on Tuesday night due to worsening weather and was due to reopen on Thursday.


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Charlie Casa, manager of electricity company Ergon Energy, said the Port Douglas, Daintree and Mossman regions were most affected by the power cuts.


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