You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

BOM warning as Cyclone Debbie intensifies; Queensland emergency services prepare for worst

ABC News logo ABC News 27/03/2017

What to watch next
UP NEXT
UP NEXT
Thousands of north Queenslanders are being evacuated as Cyclone Debbie bears down on the coast, bringing winds of up to 240 kilometres per hour and possibly a four-metre storm surge.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has warned the storm will be the worst since Cyclone Yasi in 2011, and the Premier said it was "bigger than Marcia" — the category five system that hit Queensland in 2015.

The slow-moving category three cyclone is about 300 kilometres off the coast and is expected to intensify into category four and cross south of Bowen before 10:00am on Tuesday.

Tropical Cyclone Debbie (category 3) is located to the east of Townsville. © Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology Tropical Cyclone Debbie (category 3) is located to the east of Townsville. Many locals have expressed nervousness, and some have refused to leave their homes.

A tourist has died on the road near Proserpine, with Police Commissioner Ian Stewart saying the death was "associated with this weather event".

Evacuation orders are in place for low-lying areas in parts of the Burdekin, Whitsundays, and parts of the Townsville council regions.

"You're going to see people without power for some time, large trees down, roofs damaged," meteorologist Adam Blazak said.

You want to be inside. You're going to see large flying debris. Obviously caravans don't usually stand a chance. You usually see them completely destroyed."

Ken Hall is worried about flooding at his business in Home Hill, south of Ayr. © ABC News/Allyson Horn Ken Hall is worried about flooding at his business in Home Hill, south of Ayr.

'We haven't seen a cyclone like this': Mayor

Burdekin Shire Mayor Lyn McLaughlin said forced evacuations should be completed by 10:00am, and police would visit people who had not followed orders.

She said she knew of a couple of people who had not left. "They don't understand the severity.

This is a major cyclone. We haven't seen a cyclone like this," she said.

"People who stay, they stay at their own risk. "They are given notice that once the winds get to 100 kilometres no-one is going to come to their assistance."

Evacuation buses are transporting residents from Ayr and nearby Home Hill this morning.

Cyclone shelters have been opened in Bowen and Proserpine, but authorities said they were only for people who had no other options.

The local ports have been closed and schools from Ayr to Proserpine are closed today, with as many as 74 likely to be closed from tomorrow onwards.

Cungulla resident Mike Kennedy said he would stay behind with his prized Harley-Davidson motorbike. © ABC News: David Chen Cungulla resident Mike Kennedy said he would stay behind with his prized Harley-Davidson motorbike. 'Staying with my Harley'

Graham Lawrence is finishing preparations to his home in the beachside community of Cungulla, before he evacuates to Townsville, in the north.

"Everyone's a bit nervous this morning," he said.

"We're heading up to Townsville to stay with our son and daughter in law, up in Pimlico, and their place went through Yasi okay so I presume we'll get through this one okay.

"We can pop a champagne and a have a couple of drinks and keep our fingers crossed." Mike Kennedy is staying behind with his prized motorbike.

He reckons 40 per cent of Cungulla residents are staying, despite the advice to leave.

"The council doesn't do much for us and now we've got the council out the front, parading around, well, I'd like to say some bad stuff to them."

"We are left to our own devices out here if we stay, which we are," he said.

"Everyone’s in the same basket.

A painted message directed at oncoming Cyclone Debbie is seen on the front fence in Bowen. © AAP: Sarah Motherwell A painted message directed at oncoming Cyclone Debbie is seen on the front fence in Bowen. "We'll just give it a go and rally together. Aussie Aussie Aussie type thing, you know? Oi oi oi and all that.

"We made the decision to stay but… the police can come and say what they want.

"This is our block of dirt and we're going defend it from the storm if we can." Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill said only southern areas of the city were being forced to evacuate.

Although Townsville is not directly in the firing line, it is still expected to be hit with category three winds.

QFES warns of massive storm surge

The Bureau of Meteorology have specifically warned residents between Lucinda and Mackay of a dangerous storm tide when the cyclone crosses the coast.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) commissioner Katarina Carroll said the biggest concern was not just the wind, but the rain and the storm surge that would follow.

She said it could be anywhere between two and four metres.

"If you've been directed to evacuate, you really need to evacuate," she said.

Cyclone Debbie 'bigger than Marcia': Premier

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said it is the first time a category four cyclone had hit the region.

She said Debbie was "bigger than Marcia", which made landfall as a category five system in a largely uninhabited area north of Yeppoon.

"We are concerned about a number of vulnerable people, so elderly people with a disability, who are living in those pre-1985 homes around Ayr and Home Hill," she said.

"The old homes will not sustain the impact." "Queenslanders are very tough. We know that. We have got a history of standing up to a lot of things that come our way.

"But I am concerned about elderly people. I really am concerned.

"We are asking neighbours to check on friends and relatives."

About 1,000 extra emergency services personnel have flown into the region.

The Army is on standby and ready to help before and after the storm passes.

Authorities have also ensured the region does not run out of fuel and energy suppliers will ensure power is restored as quick as possible after the event.

More From ABC News

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon