SYDNEY (AP) -- Two powerful storms were on track to smash into northern Australia, where officials urged residents to flee coastal areas or take shelter in anticipation of drenching rains, fierce winds and possible flooding.
The twin storms, dubbed the "cyclone sandwich" by locals, were both expected to hit remote areas when they make landfall early Friday, about 2,500 kilometers (1,500 miles) apart. Cyclone Lam was heading for a sparsely-populated stretch of the Northern Territory, while the more powerful Cyclone Marcia was expected to hit the eastern coast of Queensland state a few hours later with wind gusts up to 295 kilometers (180 miles) an hour.
The Bureau of Meteorology warned that Marcia had a "very destructive core," had intensified rapidly and could grow stronger before it strikes. The cyclone was likely to cause flooding in low-lying areas, the bureau warned.
"It is important all Queenslanders brace themselves for heavy rain," Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said. "This is a serious event."
Marcia was expected to make landfall in the small town of St. Lawrence, home to a few hundred residents, before weakening as it moves south.
Residents stacked sandbags, taped up windows and stocked up on supplies as they prepared for the storm's arrival.
Bill Ludwig, mayor of Livingstone Shire, located just south of where Marcia will make landfall, said he hoped the cyclone would continue on its path toward a rural area.
"We're hoping we'll be able to dodge a big bullet this time," he said.