The first tropical cyclone to hit Queensland in two years is expected to cross the coast early next week, possibly bringing very destructive wind gusts of 165km/h or more.
The system is also forecast to bring extensive rain to northern and western Queensland over the next seven days.
Bureau of Meteorology forecasters are confident a low pressure system sitting about 650 kilometres north-east of Townsville will intensify into a cyclone over the weekend, bringing wild weather to most of the state's north.
Meteorologist Lauren Pattie said there was the potential for the cyclone to be severe, at Category 3 (165 - 224 km/h gusts) or higher.
"It might not be but we're trying to get people to know that there is that potential," she said.
"Some of the modelling has it as quite a significant system but some of it not so much.
"But there is definitely that potential for it to be a cat 3 or higher."
The system is expected to be called Tropical Cyclone Debbie, after a cell off Western Australia was named as Caleb overnight.
The bureau predicted a high chance of the storm intensifying into a cyclone on Sunday.
Ms Pattie said various models showed the system making landfall anywhere along an 800-kilometre stretch from Bowen to Cooktown, with the stretch between Cairns and Townsville looking likely.
Disaster management groups and emergency services were ramping up their preparation on Friday ahead of the impact.
The cell was expected to hit the coast some time between Sunday evening and Tuesday, she said, with the cyclone expected to become more powerful the longer it stayed over the Coral Sea's warm waters.
A strong wind warning is expected to be issued from Bowen to Cooktown on Friday night, as the first impacts of the storm begin to be felt.
Ms Pattie predicted the system would start to bring high rainfall and showers to the region by Sunday.
She said south-east Queensland's weather was unlikely to be significantly affected by the cyclone.