Published: March 26,2017
Evacuations have been ordered and schools have been closed as officials and residents along Australia’s Queensland coast prepare for Tropical Cyclone Debbie.
Debbie is expected to strengthen before making landfall Tuesday morning, Australia time, according to weather.com meteorologist Chris Dolce. The storm’s center is forecast to move inland between Lucinda and Mackay on Australia's northeast coast, resulting in significant impacts such as damaging winds and storm surge flooding. Heavy rainfall will also contribute to flooding both at the coast and farther inland.
"Tomorrow will be too late" to evacuate, State Disaster Coordinator Steve Gollschewski said Sunday in a statement obtained by 9News.
The Burdekin Shire Council announced residents around Ayr would be told to evacuate as soon as possible, ABC News reports. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said that schools from Ayr to Proserpine would be closed Monday and many flights in and out of Townsville airport scheduled for Monday have been canceled.
The council also announced that anyone who ignores the warnings to evacuate will be on their own until conditions settle down and it's deemed safe for emergency workers to venture outdoors, the Townsville Bulletin reports.
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All ships at the Port of Townsville have been evacuated, reports the Townsville Bulletin in a separate article. The Queensland Rail canceled train services north of Mackay.
The Whitsunday regional council urged those living in low-lying areas to leave Monday as evacuation routes could be flooded until after the cyclone passes, reports The Guardian.
Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Services Mark Ryan has declared a disaster situation, reports The Courier Mail. Despite warnings, some residents have said they would rather ride the storm out at home than evacuate.
“This’ll be the biggest cyclone we’ve ever seen but we’re all boarded up and will stick it out,” resident Darrell Locke told The Courier-Mail.
“It’s going to be intense, but we’ve got nowhere else to go,” resident Karlene Peebles told The Courier-Mail. “I’m getting scared because of the ferocity of it. It is dead calm, but you can see the clouds are getting darker and trouble is brewing.”
The Australian Defence Force deployed a task force to support disaster crews ahead of the storm, The Courier Mail reports in a separate article.
“The ADF task force response to Tropical Cyclone Debbie is to save human life, alleviate human suffering and prevent loss or damage to property,” said Brigadier Chris Field.
Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill said during a Monday morning briefing that there was a “level of complacency” in the city, reports The Courier Mail.
“Hopefully that attitude will change as locals see the weather change,” she said.
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Townsville Hospital canceled all elective surgeries scheduled for Monday and Tuesday to make sure there was capacity for disaster emergencies, ABC reports.
Whitsunday mayor Andrew Wilcox said residents should seek shelter with friends and family on higher ground and that cyclone shelters will be opened Monday as a “last resort,” according to The Guardian.
“The cyclone shelters have capacity for 800 people each and are only available to those people at highest risk from cyclone effects that have no other option,” he said.
Police and State Emergency Service workers went door-to-door urging the residents in “red zones” to evacuate and find safety on higher ground, The Courier Mail reports. Red zones are likely to become submerged in a predicted storm tide.
State Emergency Service worker Joel Wuttke said he wasn’t surprised people decided to stay in their homes.
“They think that because last time it didn’t happen it won’t happen this time,” he told AAP. “But this time might be different.”
Officials with Ergon Energy say it is finalizing its preparations for the storm's arrival and it has crews on hand with equipment and generators, according to a release.
“There are 800 resources - Ergon, Energex and contractors in position, mobilizing or available to respond to this event while Energex crews and trucks left Brisbane this morning for North Queensland," Energy Queensland chief executive officer David Smales said in the release.
The state government released maps of the areas it expects to be affected by storm surge. They are available for download here.
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