Evacuations continue this morning across the Whitsundays, Burdekin and in some parts of Townsville as thousands move to higher ground ahead of the inundation expected from Tropical Cyclone Debbie across the next 48 hours.
Debbie is expected to be a cat. 4 when she crosses the Coast tomorrow morning and ahead of it will come a likely 4 metre tidal surge and flooding rains.
The Bureau of Meteorology is warning that Cyclone Debbie is shaping to be the largest weather event seen in the North since Cyclone Yasi in 2011.
A Category 4 system is defined as one that has sustained winds in the range of 160-200kmh, with gusts up to 280kmh. Although the strongest winds are near the core, damaging and very destructive winds can extend several hundred kilometres from the cyclone’s centre.
Based on current forecasts Townsville may be impacted by Category 3 strength winds, with gusts in excess of 165kmh.
She is now expected to intensify across today reaching those ‘severe’ levels before making landfall between Rollingstone and Proserpine tomorrow morning with wind gusts potentially to 230 km/h near the centre.
The Warning Zone now extends Lucinda to St Lawrence including Townsville, Ayr, Mackay, and the Whitsunday Islands, and inland of Bowen including Collinsville with the Watch Zone taking in areas from Innisfail to Lucinda, and inland areas including Charters Towers, Pentland, and Mount Coolon.
As of this morning Debbie is a Category 2 cyclone and is sitting 285 kilometres east north east of Bowen and 400 kilometres east of Townsville.
Gales are now occurring about the Whitsunday Islands, and are expected to extend to the exposed coast and islands elsewhere between Ayr and Mackay this morning.
Those gales are likely to extend remaining coastal and adjacent inland areas between Lucinda and St Lawrence later today and Destructive winds with gusts over 125 km/h may develop about the exposed coast and islands between Ayr and Mackay later this morning.
Destructive winds and gales could extend inland to Charters Towers, Mount Coolon, and Pentland by tomorrow as the cyclone moves inland.
Abnormally high tides are expected to occur south of Proserpine on the high tides today.
Areas of heavy rain with the potential daily rainfall totals of 200 mm, with isolated falls of 400 mm, are also likely to lead to major river flooding over a broad area next week, and a Flood Watch is current for coastal catchments between Cardwell and Gladstone, extending inland to the eastern Gulf River catchments.
Queensland Regional Director Bruce Gunn said this cyclone is very dangerous.
“Cyclone Debbie is likely to maintain cyclone strength for some distance inland towards Charters Towers, with damaging to destructive winds, delivering significant rainfall as it tracks to the west-southwest.”
Evacuations will continue across today in Whitsundays with the Cyclone Shelter opening from this morning but Whitsundays Council Mayor Willcox warns the shelters can hold up to 800 people and he is urging evacuees to use them as a last resort and leave the space free for those who cannot find shelter with family or friends.
Evacuations begin this morning across Burdekin Region and people at Cungulla and Cleveland Palms and some other areas of Townsville region.