Queensland cyclone: Cyclone Debbie could hit coast near Townsville
NERVOUS north Queenslanders are bracing amid predictions the state’s most powerful cyclone in two years will hit the coast near Townsville on Monday, packing destructive winds up to 224km/h.
The weather bureau had previously warned of a Category 3 system to make landfall on Monday afternoon, but late last night revised their forecast to a Category 4.
The tropical low, which is expected to develop into Cyclone Debbie on Saturday, was 600km east-northeast of Townsville about 11pm Friday.
The cyclone is forecast to reach the coastline between Proserpine and Townsville about 10pm on Monday.
With Tropical Cyclone Debbie forecast to build into a Category 4 system, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will head a disaster meeting with weather experts, police and emergency officials today.
Communities from Cape Tribulation to Proserpine are on high alert, with reports of panic buying as residents brace for a “mini-Yasi” cyclone and up to 500mm of rain in parts.
Sitting 600km east of Innisfail last night, Cyclone Debbie is forecast to impact a stretch up to 300km long on Monday afternoon, with winds capable of ripping off roofs, tearing apart homes, cutting power and telecommunications, and delivering a tsunami-like storm surge.
It would be the strongest cyclone to hit the state since Category 5 Cyclone Marcia wrought devastation in central Queensland in February 2015, resulting in $544 million in insurance payouts.
Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill said the threat of a storm surge posed the most grave risk to beachfront suburbs.
“We’re still two days away from when it is likely to hit the coast, but anything can happen, we advise people not to panic but to prepare,’’ Cr Hill said.
Flooding in areas around Mackay and Townsville is likely, with the ground already saturated from a week of heavy rain.
Mackay Regional Council Deputy Mayor Amanda Camm said sand pits were full, ready for sandbagging.
SES director Steven Hallem said significant resources were being poured into north Queensland in preparation.
Local councils, RACQ, BOM and the SES are telling the community members to make their emergency plans and ensure emergency kits are well stocked.
People in the affected area are reminded to clear their yards of any loose green waste, to tie down any objects that could be picked up by the wind and to stay off the roads when possible.
Port of Townsville spokeswoman Sharon Hoops said last night the regional harbour master was holding meetings every four to six hours as the cyclone develops.
Cruise ship Azamara Journey has cancelled its visit to Townsville on Monday due to the threat of Cyclone Debbie.
Choice Cardwell service station worker Tod Holford said the town was in “panic mode”, with customers buying up on fuel, bottled water and batteries.
“It’s absolutely crazy,” Mr Holford said.