Cyclone Owen is rapidly gaining strength in the Gulf of Carpentaria and could pack wind gusts of 200km/h when it crosses the Queensland coast.
Forecasters expect Owen to be a category three cyclone when it crosses a remote part of the Queensland coast, likely on Friday.
Communities between Karumba to Pormpuraaw, on the western side of Cape York Peninsula, are on alert for the possibility of a direct hit.
Owen is currently a category two sitting very close to the Northern Territory coastline, between Port Roper and Port McArthur.
It's expected to change direction and head back towards the Queensland coast later on Thursday before making landfall on Friday and continuing across the peninsula towards the state's east coast.
The cyclone could dump 300 to 400mm of rain on parts of the Cape York Peninsula.
But east coast communities could also see very heavy rainfall over the weekend.
Bureau of Meteorology forecaster James Taylor said Owen could be dragged southward, along Queensland's east coast, with the help of a low pressure system expected to develop over Victoria.
"It'll be the upper trough that develops the low over southeastern Victoria that drags Tropical Cyclone Owen towards the east, and probably southeastward, over the weekend," he told ABC radio.
"That creates a potential threat for large parts of the eastern Queensland coast, particular from flash flooding."
Mr Taylor said Owen could do what Cyclone Oswald did in 2013, and track south along Queensland's east coast, bringing driving rain with it.
"Is there potential for that to happen with this cyclone? Yes. But we won't be able to be certain about it probably until Friday afternoon, when we know were Owen is in relation to that upper trough."
Australian Associated Press