Image: Fisherman prepares for cyclone
David Gray  /  Reuters
Fisherman Shayne Jennion ties down his vessel Monday as Cyclone Monica approached the northern Australian city of Darwin.
updated 4/25/2006 7:32:39 AM ET 2006-04-25T11:32:39

A tropical cyclone that forecasters predicted would be one of Australia’s worst was downgraded early Tuesday to a Category 2 storm after it hit land, ripping the roof off a school and damaging buildings in a northern community.

Cyclone Monica had been expected to slam into the northern city of Darwin as a maximum Category 5 cyclone, with winds up to 215 mph.

But by Tuesday, its winds had dropped to 77 mph, making it a category two storm.

Andrew Tupper, a forecaster with the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, said Darwin was likely to escape major damage.

“It is still a Category 2 cyclone and we are expecting strong wind so people shouldn’t become too complacent,” he said.

Monica crossed over the northern coast at the remote Aboriginal community of Maningrida late Monday, tearing the roof off a school and damaging several buildings, police commander Bert Hofer told the Seven television network.

He said Monica would likely steer south toward the remote community of Adelaide River and away from Darwin.

There’s still potential for quite devastating winds to strike the Darwin area “so we’re advising people to stay where they are,” he said.

Monica comes just one month after Category 5 Cyclone Larry tore through the rural community of Innisfail, about 60 miles south of Cairns, destroying thousands of homes and devastating banana and sugar cane plantations.

Cyclones — called typhoons throughout much of Asia and hurricanes in the Western Hemisphere — are large-scale rotating storms that generate high winds and typically form at sea before moving inland.

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