Tropical Cyclone Owen has weakened to a category 2 system after crossing the Queensland coast south of remote Kowanyama on the western Cape York.
The storm hit land as a category 3 cyclone early on Saturday, with winds of 120 kilometres per hour near the centre and wind gusts up to 165km/h, the Bureau of Meteorology said.
Owen crossed the south east Gulf of Carpentaria coast between Kowanyama and the Gilbert River Mouth in the early hours of Saturday and was moving east at 26km/h towards more populated areas.
"It is expected to continue on a south-easterly track towards the east coast of Queensland, arriving between Ingham and Innisfail sometime in the early hours of tomorrow morning," bureau forecaster Nicholas Shera.
A severe weather warning for heavy rain and damaging winds was in place for the north tropical coast, tablelands, peninsula, northern goldfields and surrounding areas.
Heavy rain, with possible falls of 100-200mm within a six-hour period, has sparked fears of flash flooding.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) warned residents to remain indoors until being advised by authorities that it is safe leave shelters or return home.
"There is likely to be a number of hazards including fallen trees, power lines, debris and even possible structural damage to infrastructure and it is vital people do not go sightseeing and avoid damaged buildings," QFES assistant commissioner Kevin Walsh said.
"As the severe weather passes and people begin to leave their homes, we're asking everyone to pay attention to traffic signs and road closures, so you don't become stranded across a flooded road."
Ahead of Owen's arrival, more than 60 emergency services staff were sent to Kowanyama and Pormpuraaw, including swift water rescue experts.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Friday said the communities and authorities in the region were well-used to dealing with extreme weather
Authorities have been making sure everyone has a place to shelter, in cyclone-rated buildings. And in coastal areas likely to see wild winds, boats have been ordered back to harbour.
Owen is expected to wreak havoc for several days as it tracks across the cape and then down Queensland's eastern coastline over the next few days.
Almost 30 mayors from across the state have been involved in disaster planning meetings.
In central Queensland, there are concerns about possible landslides if heavy rain falls over vast tracts of land denuded by recent bushfires.
Australian Associated Press