Sunday, March 19, 2006
Cyclone Larry is about four hours away from the north Queensland coast. Latest tracking data isn’t pretty. Larry is currently headed directly towards Innisfail:
Mission Beach (about 90 minutes south of Cairns) will also take a hit due to Larry’s 400km frontage. Stewart McCure, whose parents own a Mission Beach resort, reports:
As well as 240+km winds they’re to expect a 2m storm surge and they’ve had to move all possessions to 3rd floor of the building before leaving for higher ground – with decent red wine, in true McCure fashion. People will be without a lot of stuff tomorrow night (insurance generally doesn’t cover storm surges).
Thousands have fled or been evacuated:
Mandatory evacuations have been enforced in numerous low-lying seafront areas, including in the Johnstone and Cardwell shires, expected to bear the brunt of the cyclone and its four-metre storm surge.
In addition to the evacuation of island resorts in the path of the cyclone, emergency authorities also have warned residents in low-lying areas between Cairns and Townsville to “seriously consider” leaving.
Disaster coordination centres were yesterday activated in Cairns and Townsville while the Queensland Government sent teams from Brisbane, in response to imminent destruction caused by gale force winds, torrential rain and flooding.
Media coverage of Larry has been strikingly poor (as several commenters here note). I spoke to a professional news addict around 8pm and she hadn’t heard a thing about any cyclone. Commercial TV and radio largely missed Larry’s approach, possibly because its buildup was so rapid. ABC coverage, however, has been excellent. Major points from an ABC bulletin issued late last night:
* State Emergency Service (SES) volunteers are doorknocking tonight advising residents to leave.
* Bruce Gunn from the Queensland cyclone warning centre says the cyclone is expected to make landfall about 8am AEST, coinciding with a high tide.
* Hospitals have been evacuated and Cairns port and airport have been closed, with all flights suspended until further notice.
* The cyclone is expected to retain its intensity until at least Tuesday morning as it continues to push hundreds of kilometres inland.
* Queensland Premier Peter Beattie has officially declared a disaster situation, allowing authorities the legal power to forcibly remove any reluctant evacuees.
They might be less reluctant were they aware Larry is creeping up to category five:
The Bureau of Meteorology last night warned that it was likely to intensify into a category-five cyclone before hitting the coast south of Innisfail between 7.30am and 8.00am today.
If it is upgraded, the storm could unleash greater fury than Cyclone Tracy, the category-four storm that killed 64 people and destroyed most of Darwin in 1974.
Larry news seems to be minimal even in areas under threat:
Mena from Sweden was one of the many foreign tourists sunning themselves at the lagoon on the Cairns esplanade today.
She had no idea a category 4 cyclone was hovering off the coast.
“Is it true? You’re not making it up,” she said.
Mena says no one at her hostel has told her how to prepare for a cyclone.
UPDATE. The USS Peleliu, USS Ogden and USS Germantown have left the danger zone.
UPDATE II. Don’t bother searching for information from the Cairns Post:
The Cairns Post does not itself have a web site ...
UPDATE IV. Kadesu tracks looming Larry.
UPDATE V. Queensland state Counter Disaster and Rescue Services executive director Frank Pagano:
“This is the most devastating cyclone that we could potentially see on the east coast of Queensland for decades ... there is going to be destruction,” Pagano told reporters in Brisbane.
“Katrina was a category five—this is currently a category four that can develop similar to the American one,” he added.