Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Road Access to Towns Cut as Deadly Tropical Cyclone Debbie Hammers Australia's Queensland Coast

Sean Breslin and Ada Carr
Published: March 28,2017

Tropical Cyclone Debbie took its best shot at Australia's Queensland coast on Tuesday, battering the shore with powerful winds and life-threatening storm surge and cutting off road access to three towns.
The massive storm made landfall near Airlie Beach midday Tuesday local time (late Monday night EDT) as a Cat. 4 equivalent storm, according to weather.com meteorologist Jon Erdman. Some 40,000 homes and businesses were in the dark as Debbie moved ashore, the Australian Broadcasting Company reported.
One death was confirmed by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, according to BBC.com.
(MORE: What We Expect Debbie to Do Next)
Just off the coast, widespread damage was reported on the Whitsunday Islands, according to a separate BBC report. Structural damage has also been reported in the towns of Proserpine, Bowen and Collinsville, ABC added.
Flash flooding cut off the Bruce Highway, which is the main arterial road, near Bowen Tuesday, ABC reports. Roads to Airlie Beach and Prosperine were also blocked off due to damage from the storm.
"It's very noisy: screaming, howling wind ... sounds like a freight train," Airlie Beach Councillor Jan Clifford told Reuters in a text message as the storm made landfall.
Two men were rescued Tuesday after becoming stranded when their vessel ran aground near Whitsunday Island, according to the Queensland Police Service. A police crew on a water vessel spotted them and safely transported them to Shute Harbour. They were not injured.
So far, one injury has been reported. A man in Proserpine was hospitalized after a wall collapsed, ABC said. Major damage has been reported in that town, but those reports are preliminary.
One of the biggest problems facing emergency officials in the immediate aftermath is the lack of phone service and electricity that has made it difficult to fully assess the damage along Australia's northeast coast, according to the New York Times.
A team of State Emergency Service volunteers responded to more than 700 calls for assistance Tuesday, according to Queensland Fire and Emergency.
"We’re starting to see it where they’re actually losing communication, and that’s the biggest problem for us — because we just don’t know how many people are injured, the status of their homes," Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told the Times.
(MORE: Cape Town, South Africa, Faces 'Real Crisis' With Only 100 Days of Water Left)
Prior to the storm's arrival, 1,000 people were deployed to Queensland to help with disaster relief, the Times also reported. The army remains on standby as well.
"Everyone is going to be in shock tomorrow, just to see the full impact of this cyclone," Palaszczuk told BBC.com. "I'm bracing myself for it."
Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Services Mark Ryan declared a disaster situation, according to the Courier Mail. Despite warnings, some residents said they would rather ride the storm out at home than evacuate.
In total, more than 25,000 left their homes ahead of the storm, BBC.com reported.

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

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