Live coverage: Cyclone Yasi bears down on Queensland coast
Cyclone Yasi approaches the Australian coast.
EVACUATIONS are under way as communities along the coast prepare for a cyclone that has stunned experienced weather watchers with its size and force. Live updates will be posted here as they come to hand.
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- BOM: Current Yasi track projections
- Local coverage at cairns.com.au
- Q&A: Preparing for a cyclone
- Cyclone Yasi news and maps
- Evacuation and info hotline 1300 993 191
- Register as evacuee at Red Cross
12.55pm About 100 cats and dogs will board flights to safety on Tuesday as the RSPCA moves animals out of the destructive path of Tropical Cyclone Yasi.
The RSPCA’s Townsville shelter is asking all pet owners to check whether they have animals at the shelter and have dropped collection charges in a bid to empty the pound, RSPCA spokesman Michael Beatty said.
Dogtainers and Toll Air Express will help relocate close to 100 animals from Townsville to Brisbane with the first shipment flying out on Tuesday, he said.
The animals will briefly stop over at Brisbane’s Fairfield shelter, which is still being repaired after the city’s floods, before being moved into foster care or re-homed through other southeast Queensland shelters.
12.50pm A satellite image from the Japan Meteorological Agency shows the size of cyclone Yasi as it approaches the Queensland coast.
12.45pm Reuters reports that the country’s largest coal freight company, QR National, has suspended operations on two rail networks ahead of the cyclone.
Its major Goonyella network, feeding into the coking-coal export terminals of Dalrymple Bay and Hay Point, and its smaller Newlands line were temporarily suspended, a spokesman said.
The inland coal mines are still pumping water out of their pits after the recent floods. Even if the cyclone causes no damage, industry body the Queensland Resources Council estimates it will take until March for coal miners to return to normal.
12.30pm The Queensland Times reports the operators of the Wivenhoe Dam are ready to release water in anticipation of cyclone Yasi.
Seqwater said they will consider dropping the reservoir below its current 100 per cent capacity should more rain hit the region.
However Seqwater spokesman Mike Foster said there was no rush to decide.
“Certainly one of the options being looked at – and not the only option being looked at – is reducing flood storage levels so we would be effectively starting a flood event at a lower level,” Mr Foster said.
12.01pm This just in from Rockhampton’s Morning Bulletin, in a report saying the Capricornia Coast is “safer”.
DESPITE damaging winds from tomorrow morning, Cyclone Yasi isn’t expected to affect the region’s coastal communities as much as first predicted.
Due to the size of this system the region will still see high winds of up to 100 km from tomorrow morning, rainfall of up to 100mm in a 48 hour period, and higher than average tides.
However exact tidal heights for the Capricorn Coast won’t be known until further modelling is completed today.
11.58am NASA has released a stunning satellite image of Yasi as it gathers strength off the Queensland coast.
The full image is here.
11: 45am A hotline has been set up to keep track of people forced to leave their homes as Cyclone Yasi approaches the north Queensland coast.
Affected residents are being urged to register their details with authorities by calling 1300 993 191.
Inquiries about people caught up in the cyclone emergency can be made to the same number.
International inquiries can be made via +61 7 3055 6220.
Police urged anyone who has evacuated or who is travelling in north Queensland to register on the National Registration and Inquiry System (NRIS) “so friends and family are able to reassure themselves you are safe and that emergency services are able to concentrate on looking for individuals who may be missing as opposed to simply out of contact.”
People can also register with the NRIS system online at the Red Cross website.
11:30am Severe tropical Cyclone Yasi will hit the north Queensland coast with greater ferocity than devastating Cyclone Larry, Premier Anna Bligh says.
Larry damaged about 10,000 homes and caused $1.5 billion in damage.
“This is such a big system that this eye could last for more than an hour and at the end of that period the next thing that will be felt is the strongest possible winds… this storm is huge and it is life threatening.”
Anyone wanting to leave the region by air had only Tuesday to do so, Ms Bligh said.
11.25am Traffic at Woree, south of Cairns, from a local webcam.
10:40am Premier Bligh: “People need to take action between now and tomorrow morning by which time in the high impact areas it will be unsafe for travel”.
There will most probably be mandatory evacuation orders by lunchtime today.
A pre-emptive disaster declaration was signed this morning to allow for mandatory evacuation powers if needed.
10:35am All schools in far north Queensland district down to south of Townsville will be closed for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Letters will be sent today confirming.
10:30am Anna Bligh announces in a press conference that Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin will be putting on extra flights today for those who want to leave areas.
10:15am Queensland is facing a “potentially very deadly event”, the premier says, but emergency services are ready for Cyclone Yasi.
Anna Bligh has headed into a meeting of the state disaster management group, where authorities will refine preparations for what could be the state’s worst cyclone.
“This is a very, very big storm event,” Ms Bligh told ABC radio before heading into the meeting, where the issue of compulsory evacuations would be considered.
She said the size of Yasi meant many communities either side of where it made landfall could expect to see the impacts of “serious storm surges, flooding torrential rain and gale force winds”.
She said north Queensland residents would need to “prepare themselves mentally for what I think will be quite frightening to those who experience it”.
She said extra police had been deployed into north Queensland and other backup teams were ready to go in once the cyclone had crossed the coast.
She said authorities would be doorknocking some low-lying areas on Tuesday, urging at-risk residents to leave.
“I just appeal to everybody: if you have an emergency services worker or a police officer asking you to relocate please co-operate with them. They’re trying to keep you and your family safe.”
9:20am Communities between Cooktown and Townsville are most at risk of a direct hit from severe tropical cyclone Yasi, forecasters say.
But coastal communities aren’t the only ones in the danger zone, with the Bureau of Meteorology warning communities as far inland as Mt Isa could see cyclonic conditions.
Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Gordon Banks said communities will be at risk from the damaging winds but also from a very large storm surge due to the vast size of the cyclone.
“At this stage we’re looking at a Wednesday late-evening crossing,” he told ABC radio.
7:45am On Tuesday morning, Yasi was still well out to sea but had intensified to a severe category three system.
It’s expected to cross the coast as a severe category four, with winds gusting up to 250km/h, very late on Wednesday night into Thursday morning.
Yasi is expected to deliver a very large storm surge, and the bureau is working to provide emergency services with the latest advice so they can better focus evacuation efforts.
But some communities are not waiting.
Island resorts in the Whitsundays are being evacuated along with low-lying parts of other communities in the danger zone, initially said to reach as far south as Proserpine, near Mackay.
Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has warned the cyclone could be the worst the state’s ever seen, with the potential to cause “powerful and deadly” flash flooding, especially in low-lying areas near the coast.
Whitsundays Mayor Mike Brunker told AAP there was a sense of urgency in the community.
“People in low-lying areas are evacuating to friends and family or, if they have to, leave town,” Mr Brunker said.
“They should be very anxious as there’s no time for complacency.”
He said residents had been panic buying food and supplies since Cyclone Anthony, which crossed the coast near Bowen late on Sunday night as a category two storm. It caused little damage.