A Queensland cyclone, predicted to become the worst since Cyclone Yasi in 2011 and bigger than the category five Marcia that hit the state in 2015, has strengthened as it comes close to making landfall.
Cyclone Debbie, described by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk as “a monster of a cyclone,” was upgraded to a Category 4 by 8pm Monday, and had prompted mass evacuations considered to be “the largest we’ve ever had to do,” The Courier-Mail reported.
The system, which according to the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) has a “very destructive core” that could pack wind gusts of up to 275km/h when it hits, crossed the coast between Ayr and Cape Hillsborough, north of Mackay.
In Mackay, more than 25,000 people were ordered to evacuate from low-lying areas by midnight, as inundation between 0.8 metres to 2.5 metres above the high tide level is expected.
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In addition to Mackay, other warning zone areas include the stretch from Lucinda to St Lawrence, including Townsville, and the Whitsunday Islands, extending inland to Charters Towers, Mount Coolon, Moranbah, and Pentland, The Courier-Mail said.
The BoM is also warning residents of Ayr and St Lawrence of a dangerous storm tide as the storm crosses the coast.
“The sea is likely to rise steadily up to a level well above the normal tide, with damaging waves and flooding of some low-lying areas close to the shoreline as the cyclone approaches the coast today,” it said.
The central coast and Whitsunday is forecast to experience heavy rain and severe flash flooding, the report said.
Authorities said residents can expect to be waiting up to 18 hours for the cyclone to fully pass.
Queensland on high alert for cyclone
BoM: Extreme weather events mar 2016