Torrential rain and gale force winds are about to batter north Queensland with a cyclone currently forming off the coast set to arrive on Tuesday.

Experts from the Bureau of Meteorology believe the risk of a cyclone developing on Monday is moderate but its status will upgrade to high on Tuesday and Wednesday.

A tropical low is currently sitting more than 250km off the coast of Cairns and is moving southwest at a speed of about 15 km/h.

Forecast tracking predicts the cyclone could reach Category 2 by Wednesday.

Abnormally high tides are causing heavy rainfall that has already begun in some areas.

"Although a direct coastal impact is not expected, gales are possible about exposed coastal and island areas as the system reaches cyclone strength. Heavy rainfall is also likely," the forecast said.

Flood watches are in place for a stretch of the north Queensland coast.

A tropical cyclone likely to form around north Queensland on Tuesday. Source: BOM
A tropical cyclone likely to form around north Queensland on Tuesday. Source: BOM

"We will see the heaviest from probably Innisfail to Ingham coast over the next 24 hours but it all depends on where the tropical low goes as to where the worst of the rain hits," a Bureau of Meteorology spokesman told NCA NewsWire.

"People living in areas likely to be affected by this flooding should take measures to protect their property as much as possible and be prepared to help their neighbours."

A stretch of the north Queensland coast, from Cooktown down to Lucinda, is expected to be slammed on Tuesday morning by wind gusts of up to 100 km/h.

The next tropical cyclone to form in the Australia region is expected to be called Niran.

Originally published as State braces for tropical cyclone