Queensland's third cyclone of the season will likely form in the Coral Sea in the next 48 hours, forecasters say.

A powerful low pressure system is bringing heavy rain and strong winds to the tip of Cape York and Torres Strait islands.

The Bureau of Meteorology is warning of localised flash flooding with some areas expected to see 150mm of rain in the next six hours.

The storm will pass over the cape and into the Coral Sea on Wednesday, where bureau spokesman Ken Kato says there's a moderate chance it will form into a tropical cyclone in the next 48 hours.

"But by then it should be a fair way offshore," he told AAP.

Mr Kato says the storm will be called Cyclone Tim and is expected to move southeast into the Pacific, but may not follow the path of Cyclone Sandra.

"At least initially it will during the early stages," he said.

"But it's hard to tell how big it be or where it will go until it gets out off Queensland's east coast and becomes slow moving."

Cyclone Tim will be the eighth cyclone to form in the Australian region during the 2012-13 season, but the third for Queensland.

Meanwhile Cyclone Sandra, a category two storm, has passed the northern tip of New Caledonia.

It shut down operations of the one of the world's largest nickel miners there, but otherwise left the French territory unscathed.

Sandra is heading south but it's not expected to affect the Australian mainland.

It will pass west of Australia's Norfolk Island on Wednesday, where it's expected to turn into mid-latitude low pressure system.

The storm is also expected to bring wild weather to Lord Howe Island on Friday and forecasters are still trying to work out how dangerous it will be for locals.

"It should stay fairly intense. Even though it may not be a tropical cyclone, it will still have very strong winds," Mr Kato said.

"We're still assessing what level of threat there will be."

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