EIGHT HOURS TO LANDFALL
Off the coast of Queensland, Australia, one of the biggest cyclones seen in this part of the world in decades is now brewing up to a monster Category Five.
It is expected to make landfall between 7.30am and 8.30am.
Some radio stations are reporting there will be winds of 300kmh when it hits land.
Although North Queenslanders are used to some pretty big, and pretty regular, tropical storms, people are getting very, very nervous. This is going to be a big one, and images of the destruction, chaos and human suffering seen in the US after Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans, are fresh in the minds of locals.
Tens of thousands of locals hit the shops this afternoon, stocking up on water, baby care products, food and batteries. Many shops are already reporting such stock has either sold out completely, or supplies are running very low.
Mile long traffic queues outside petrol stations can be seen up and down the North Queensland coast and well inland, as locals fill their tanks and top up propane gas tanks.
Cyclone Larry has built quickly, catching the Queensland State Government and locals off guard. In the space of only five hours, the cyclone shifted from a Category Two up to the brink of a Category Five.
MANDATORY EVACUATIONS are now on. The State Premier is on TV and radio saying get out of the way now, don't wait another minute.
HOW TO UNDERSTATE THE THREAT :
From the Australian Bureau of Meteorology :
"Coastal residents between Cairns and Townsville are specifically warned of the DANGEROUS storm tide as the cyclone crosses the coast. The sea is likely to steadily rise up to a level which will be significantly above the normal tide, with damaging waves, strong currents and flooding of low-lying areas extending some way inland."
Normal tides in this part of Queensland vary by a few inches, tidal surges of 2 to 3 metres are being predicted. The ABM warning quoted above was issued nine hours before the expected land fall.
Some of the most beautiful and most famous tourist resorts in Australia now lie directly in the path of Cyclone Larry. The tourist mecca of Cairns has a low sea wall, and the main tourist drag and parts of the CBD sit only metres from the wall.
If Cyclone Larry hits at a Category Four or Five, it will likely prove devastating, even a Category Three will send water over the sea wall and into the streets.
Port Douglas also lies in the path of the cyclone. Some of the island resorts were evacuated yesterday, just to be safe.
Charter boats, yachts, fishing boats have been pouring into marinas between Townsville and Cairns over the past 24 hours.
From the Sail World site :
"The fleet of tall ships and major charter vessels which normally moor in Pioneer Bay have come into the marina. They have stripped off all loose objects, removed bimini's and prepared for heavy weather.
"Hinchenbrook Marina at Cardwell is right on the expected track of the cyclone. This marina is partially protected by Hinchenbrook Island but most local boat owners have not moved their vessels to the marina. Instead many owners are taking their boats well up the channel to find shelter amongst the mangroves."
Adrian Kitchin, as quoted on the Sail World site : "We had a lot of trouble convincing clients that they needed to cut short their charter holiday. We've had glorious blues skies and perfect 10-15 knot breezes and the clients just did not understand, until they came back to base and we were able to show them the likely track of the cyclone."