North Queenslanders are bracing for Cyclone Dylan which is tipped to cross the coast, near Ayr, early on Friday morning.

A tropical cyclone barrelling towards north Queensland has been upgraded to a category two cyclone.

Cyclone Dylan is expected to cross the coast further south than originally expected, near Ayr or possibly Bowen, in the early hours of Friday morning, just hours before a king tide is forecast to hit.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) upgraded the severe storm to a category two cyclone on Thursday night.

Whitsunday Mayor Jenny Whitney said the council is now urging people in low-lying areas to evacuate before the king tide on Friday morning.

Those in low-lying areas in Bowen – about 1700 properties – should evacuate before 9am (AEST) and homes that could be flooded in Airlie Beach – about 900 properties – should evacuate before 6am.

Evacuation centres have been opened in both areas.

The cyclone was about 185 kilometres northeast of Townsville and 225km north of Proserpine at 7pm on Friday, the BOM says.

It’s moving at 12km/h towards the coast and may bring dangerous storm tides, heavy rain, flash flooding and storm gusts of up to 150km/h.

Gales and torrential rain are battering areas from Cardwell to St Lawrence and winds are expected to intensify between Lucinda and St Lawrence on Thursday night and Friday morning.

Heavy rain, which may lead to flash flooding, is expected from Herbert and Lower Burdekin and the Central Coast and Whitsunday Districts.

Coastal residents between Lucinda and St Lawrence, including Townsville are being warned of a dangerous storm tide, particularly Friday morning.

“The sea is likely to rise steadily up to a level well above the normal tide, with damaging waves and flooding of some low-lying areas close to the shoreline,” the weather bureau said in a statement.

A separate severe weather warning is in place for coastal and island communities from Cooktown to Cardwell and from St Lawrence to Gladstone.

North Queenslanders spent Thursday bracing for the cyclone.

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman says while flooding is a “big threat”, north Queenslanders have faced far worse disasters.

“I know people in the far north have dealt with bigger and far more serious events than this,” he told media after being briefed on the cyclone in Townsville.

“But I’m here in solidarity with the people of the north.”

Mr Newman says affected residents needing to travel should do so well before the cyclone makes landfall or wait it out.

Torrential rain and gales are battering coastal communities from Townsville to Mackay on Thursday night.

Low-lying areas in Townsville, Cairns, Bowen, Airlie Beach and Mackay have all been flooded and roads in Bowen have been damaged.

Townsville and Bowen ports have been closed and boats travelling to and from Palm Island, Magnetic Island and The Whitsundays have been moored.

Education Queensland has advised Hayman Island State School and TAFE campuses in Mackay, Ooralea, Burdekin, Bowen and Cannonvale will be closed on Friday.

The approaching cyclone has also disrupted flights out of Whitsunday and Townsville, while the Mackay Airport will be closed until at least midday on Friday.

Residents have been stocking up on supermarket supplies and some stores have run out of sandbags.