Cyclone Owen is rapidly gaining strength with authorities warning it could be a destructive category four storm by the time it crosses the Queensland coast.

Owen was upgraded from a category two to a three on Thursday morning, as it hovers near the Northern Territory coast in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

A coastal crossing along the southeast Gulf of Carpentaria coast between Karumba to Pormpuraaw later Friday is likely, and there is a chance it crosses the coast as a category 4 system, forecasters warned.

AAP.

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