Cyclone Trevor has intensified to category three and is picking up speed as it barrels towards the Northern Territory coast, where more than 2000 people evacuated from its path face an anxious wait.
The Bureau of Meteorology warned the massive storm is likely to become a category four tropical cyclone pushing gale-force winds, rain and tidal surges 300 kilometres out from its core, late on Friday.
Dangerous waves, tides and flooding will precede the destructive core which is expected to have wind gusts of up to 275 km/h when it smashes into the mainland between Groote Eylant and the NT-Queensland border on Saturday.
Anxious residents worried about their homes and pets were evacuated by road and on Australia Defence Force cargo planes from Borroloola, Numbulwar, Groote Eylandt and other indigenous communities.
Buses, vehicles, ferries, planes and helicopters were used during the mass evacuation as a state of emergency was declared in the Gulf country on Thursday.
The evacuated people are in Darwin and Katherine where sleeping facilities including tent cities have been set up.
It is the largest evacuation prior to a cyclone in the territory's history and the largest type of any evacuation since Cyclone Tracy in 1974.
The NT is currently undergoing the biggest evacuation since Cyclone Tracy in 1974 (which flattened Darwin). This is where 500 evacuees from Gulf communities will sleep tonight. #CycloneTrevor pic.twitter.com/r2WNd80RWW— Arafura Girl (@ArafuraGirl) March 21, 2019
The severity and threat of the storm, as well as complications with the remoteness of the area, led to the decision to evacuate, Chief Minister Michael Gunner said on Thursday.
Following the state of emergency being declared, schools in the region were closed and police able to order people to evacuate and close roads and businesses.
Trevor left behind trail of damage in Queensland's Cape York peninsula earlier this week, uprooting trees, causing flooding and roof damage, closing schools and roads, and knocking out power supplies.
Damaging to very destructive winds in the core of tropical #cycloneTrevor. Some images of damage from #LockhartRiver. For cyclone preparedness and safety advice: https://t.co/3AD7YyJhdg. For emergency assistance call Qld SES on 132 500 or 000. For info: https://t.co/Tw65a1FNqM pic.twitter.com/LF8fSP4Ii4— Bureau of Meteorology, Queensland (@BOM_Qld) March 19, 2019
Ergon Energy crews are flying to the community of Aurukun where about half the community remains without power.
Mayor Dereck Walpo told AAP that despite the ongoing rain and lack of electricity, people were in "high spirits" and the majority of buildings had come through the cyclone undamaged.
"The worst has come on gone and everyone has a smile on their dial," he said.
Gales are expected on Groote Eylandt and Mornington and Sweers Islands from Friday afternoon and on the mainland coast between Cape Shield in the Northern Territory and Burketown in Queensland on Friday night.
The gales will move into the eastern Carpentaria and northern Barkly districts and northwest Gulf country on Saturday morning.
Inland locations likely to be impacted by wild winds and rain include Doomadgee, Brunette Downs, Creswell Downs, Cape Crawford, Robinson River and Wollogorang.
© AAP 2019