Tropical Cyclone Jasper weakens while still lashing northeastern Australia with flooding rain #Tropical #Cyclone #Jasper #weakens #lashing #northeastern #Australia #flooding #rain

CANBERRA, Australia — The first tropical cyclone to hit Australia in the current season weakened to a low pressure system but continued to lash the northeast coast Thursday with flooding rain and left almost 40,000 homes and businesses without power.

Cyclone Jasper crossed the Queensland state coast late Wednesday as a category 2 storm on a five-tier scale that whipped the sparsely populated region with winds of up to 140 kph (87 mph).

The cyclone crossed near the Aboriginal community of Wujal Wujal, 110 kilometers (68 miles) north of the city of Cairns, though many of its 300 residents evacuated before Jasper struck.

Katrina Hewitt, who operates tourist accommodation at Wujal Wujal and did not evacuate, said the community was largely unscathed except for damaged trees.

“It looks amazing. No flooding, no breakages of buildings,” Hewitt said.

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

Hewitt expected Wujal Wujal would be isolated for days by fallen trees blocking roads.

The winds quickly eased as the storm tracked west across land, but heavy rain was forecast to continue Thursday with the risk of flooding.

Several roads were closed by fallen trees and floodwater.

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

Almost 40,000 homes and businesses had lost power, which amounted to 25% of electricity customers in the cyclone-effected area, Dick said.

Government meteorologist 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 in now is falling onto places that are already saturated. It’s falling onto rivers that are already swollen and running high,” Hines said.

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

Betty Hinton, who runs an ice cream business in Daintree village, estimated the edge of the cyclone’s eye passed directly over her home during a sleepless night.

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

“This one just went on and on and on and there just didn’t seem to be any relief from it, and so for 14 hours we were buffeted here and then the heavy rain started,” she said.

Hinton said her house was built to withstand the strongest cyclones and was not damaged.

Cairns Airport had closed late Tuesday due to the worsening weather and was expected to reopen Thursday.

Charlie Casa, a manager at the electricity company Ergon Energy, said the Port Douglas, Daintree and Mossman regions were worst effected by power outages.

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