Cyclone Debbie strengthens to Cat 3, heads south
WHAT WE KNOW
- TC Debbie has formed in the Coral Sea and is expected to intensify to a Category 4 by crossing
- A 'Watch Zone' has been issued for Cairns to Ayr
- A 'Warning Zone' is in place for Ayr to St Lawrence, including the Mackay and Whitsunday regions
- Mackay is expected to get the worst of the rainfall
- Thousands have been evacuated
- The Bureau has labelled Debbie the most significant cyclone to hit Queensland since Category 5 Cyclone Yasi in 2011
SEVERE Tropical Cyclone Debbie has recently strengthened into a category 3 system, and is expected to intensify further as it continues to move west-southwest towards the Queensland coast today.
Severe Tropical Cyclone Debbie is forecast to make landfall as a severe tropical cyclone between Ayr and Cape Hillsborough, north of Mackay, on Tuesday morning.
Gales are now occuring about the Whitsunday Islands, and are expected to extend to the exposed coast and islands elsewhere between Ayr and Mackay this morning and early afternoon.
Gales could extend to remaining coastal and adjacent inland areas between Townsville and St Lawrence later today before potentially extending further north to Cardwell and further west to inland locations such as Charters Towers, Pentland and Mount Coolon on Tuesday.
Destructive winds with gusts over 125 km/h may develop about the exposed coast and islands between Cape Upstart and Mackay during the afternoon.
These destructive winds may extend further north along the coast to Townsville overnight and during Tuesday and to adjacent inland areas, including Collinsville, on Tuesday.
Cyclone Debbie on collision course with CQ towns: BOM
THE BUREAU of Meteorology's team of weather experts believe Cyclone Debbie will make a huge turn towards Central Queensland's coast after it wreaks havoc on a suite of towns in the Central West.
New radar images released by the Bureau reveal Cyclone Debbie will swerve onto a south-west path, putting the system on a collision course with Emerald.
Cyclone Debbie is expected to shift from a Category 4 to a Category 3 shortly after landfall, a Category 1 shortly after Charters Towers, and a Tropical low by the time it reaches Richmond, passing on through Emerald.
Cyclone Debbie has slowed its movement towards the coast, which BoM has previously warned would allow the cyclone to intensify further.
In a new forecast also shows that BoM has widened the risk areas it will watch closely over the next five days to include areas as far south as Goondoowindi on the border of New South Wales and Queensland.
The slowing of Cyclone Debbie has also raised fears of a potentially more destructive storm surge, with police ordering compulsory evacuations across low-lying area in the Whitsundays region.
BoM believes the cyclone will make landfall during abnormally high-tides, worsening the scenario.
"Abnormally high tides are expected to occur between at least Lucinda and Mackay as the cyclone approaches the coast," BoM's latest warning states.
"Large waves may also develop along the beachfront.
"People living in areas likely to be affected by this flooding should take measures to protect their property as much as possible and be prepared to follow instructions regarding evacuation of the area if advised to do so by the authorities.
BoM is still expecting Cyclone Debbie to make landfall as a Category 4, with wind speeds of up to 260km/h at the "very destructive core" of the cyclone.
BoM is expected to release a detailed forecast of rainfall shortly, shedding light on if the Fitzroy River and its catchments are expected to be inundated.