Marcia ‘big as Yasi’ as storms loom

Written By komlim puldel on Kamis, 19 Februari 2015 | 20.01

Tropical Cyclone Marcia is expected to grow into a category five storm as its core moves into coastal Qld.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk as given a press conference ahead of cyclone Marcia crossing the state. Courtesy: Sky News

Communities in Queensland and the Northern Territory are battening down as two separate cyclones approach.

Storm clouds gather over the Gold Coast as Cyclone Marcia approaches. Source: News Corp Australia

FIERCE winds have torn trees out by their roots and hundreds of families have fled their homes as a "cyclone sandwich" approaches the north of Australia.

WHAT WE KNOW:

* Cyclone Lam near the Northern Territory is category 4 (and intensifying) and Cyclone Marcia off the Queensland coast will strengthen into a category 5 cyclone.

* The Bureau of Meteorology says it only has records of four Category 5 cyclones reaching landfall in Queensland: Cyclone Mahina in Princess Charlotte Bay in 1899, a cyclone in Mackay and another in Innisfail in 1918 (they didn't have names) and Cyclone Yasi in 2011.

* Severe Tropical Cyclone Marcia is due to cross the Queensland coast between St Lawrence and Gladstone with destructive winds with gusts of up to 295 km/h expected near the core of the system. (BoM)

* As forecast, Tropical Cyclone Lam has made a southwest turn towards land, and is expected to cross the coast near Elcho Island in the next few hours. (BoM).

* Landfall now estimated for #TCMarcia is 7am (local time) Friday morning but still as a CAT5 system (@Melbbiker).

* #TCLam should make landfall around 2-3am (local time) as a category 4 system.

LIVE UPDATES:

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Meanwhile, hundreds of people have been evacuated from a small Northern Territory town as Cyclone Lam makes its way towards land.

Emergency Services have decided that the 430 people in Warruwi on Goulburn Island should be moved to the mainland before the category three system struck.

Eighteen small planes and two helicopters have been shuttling between Warruwi and Darwin today.

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10.50pm Tropical Cyclone Marcia has triggered a severe weather warning for northeastern NSW. Heavy rain is expected in the Northern Rivers district, the Mid North Coast and eastern parts of the Northern Tablelands. More at The Daily Telegraph.

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10pm Emergency services have urged the town of St Lawrence to evacuate before Cyclone Marcia hits as a category 5 on Friday morning. @NewsTalk4BC says there is concern there will be a king tide tomorrow in Townsville, according to @crjennyhill. BoM Qld says TC Marcia has begun moving southwest in the last hour.

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9.22pm Here's how the cyclones are shaping up:

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Destructive winds are also expected to develop about coastal and island communities between Mackay and Burnett Heads on Thursday night.

The cyclone has rapidly picked up intensity, and was reclassified from a category one to category three system within four hours by the BOM on Thursday afternoon.

The bureau earlier predicted it would be upgraded again, bringing wind gusts of 260km/h at its core early Friday morning just before it makes landfall north of Yeppoon.

"At the moment it has been intensifying far more rapidly than a typical cyclone would," BOM regional director Rob Webb said.

Marcia is moving at 16km/h and is set to cross the coast somewhere between Mackay and Gladstone on Friday morning.

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8.30pm "This is a rare situation for Queensland. We've only had two category 5 cyclones to hit the east coast of the state in recorded history," @Amy_Greenbank (Sky News Australia).

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8.10pm: Cyclone Marcia is now due to cross as category 5 (around 8am local time), near St Lawrence in Central Qld #TCMarcia (ABCTV)

8pm The Bureau of Meteorology Qld predicts #TCMarcia will intensify to a category 5 before it makes land.

And this just in from The Bureau of Meteorology NT:

7.48pm #TCMarcia areas affected: Bowen to Double Island Point extending inland to Blackwater, Moura, Biloela, and Monto (Warning Zone) | Adjacent inland areas between Bundaberg and Double Island Point, extending inland to include Mundubbera, Gayndah, and Murgon (Watch Zone)

7.40pm #CycloneLam will make landfall as a Category 4 system, according to ABC24. Cyclone centres have been established for people in Yeppoon, Proserpine and Mackay as #TCMarcia nears (Sky News).

7.32pm Elcho Island update: Power is out on the Northern Territory island. Residents will potentially see destructive winds for another 6-12 hours as the eyewall passes closes to communities. The @BOM_NT's Ben Suter says Elcho Island is seeing gusts up to 130km/h and could increase up to 230km/h #CycloneLam

7.15pm Sky News Australia reports #CycloneLam will present very destructive winds above 200km/h over Wessel Island and will extend along the coast between Milingimbi and Gapuwiyak.

6.49pm The time to take shelter is now.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and the Bureau of Meteorology have warned Marcia's wind gusts could reach 270km/h when it makes landfall.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk held a meeting of the Disaster Management Committee at the Emergency Operations Centre in Brisbane's north on Thursday afternoon where she and several of her new ministers were briefed by emergency authorities.

"It is important all Queenslanders brace themselves for heavy rain," she said.

"This is a serious event. It has changed drastically since this morning."

The premier said the meeting's key point stressed that the safety of Queenslanders was the priority.

"Queenslanders need to be prepared now," she said.

"This is an important time now not to panic but to make sure you have your preparations in place."

"Abnormally high tides are expected today and tomorrow, with levels above the highest tide of the year with flooding of low areas likely," the Bureau said this afternoon.

"Widespread rainfall totals between 100-300mm are forecast, with the heaviest falls expected within coastal catchments. Higher localised falls are possible, as is localised flash flooding."

Cyclone Marcia is now a category three system, and is likely to be upgraded again before it hits land.

There is already no water or power in some Northern Terrority communities, where ferocious gales have already reached 140km/h - with gusts of 190km/h expected later tonight - and hundreds of residents have been evacuated.

At a press conference, the Northern Territory's acting Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw said he expected Cyclone Lam to make landfall during low tide, but was nevertheless preparing for potential flooding.

"We have a number of teams who will be ready to deploy at short notice," he said.

Emergency services are going from door-to-door in NT towns, including Maningrida, to warn of gale force winds. Four hundred people have been evacuated so far, 350 of whom have been taken to Darwin.

Goulburn Island residents have begun evacuation to Darwin ahead of the arrival of Cylone Lam.

Early images show Cyclone Marcia already affecting the Gold Coast. Picture: David Clark Source: News Corp Australia

Trees and branches strewn across the ground in Galiwinku as Cyclone Lam approaches. Pic from Elcho Island resident Jazlie Grygoruk. Source: Supplied

Earlier this afternoon, supermarket shelves were cleared in Queensland as frightened locals grabbed emergency supplies and bunkered down at their homes or at shelters in hospitals or schools.

Both cyclones are currently expected to make landfall around 3am.

Volunteers help feed the residents of Goulburn Island after the evacuation. Source: News Corp Australia

"It has got really bad here now, we are losing trees all over the place," Diana Roper told ABC News Darwin from a public shelter on Elcho Island.

Warruwi resident Marcustold AAP: "When the lightning strikes, it's a thump and then everything explodes".

Coastal residents between St Lawrence and Hervey Bay in Queensland have been warned of a dangerous storm tide, with damaging waves and flooding of low-lying areas predicted.

A BoM graphic shows Marcia's expected path. Source: Supplied

Category three Cylone Lam approaching the NT. Source: Supplied

The Bureau of Meteorology has told households to protect their properties and be ready to evacuate if advised to do so.

Marcia has been intensifying as it moves southwest through the Coral Sea towards Queensland, where it is expected to make landfall between St Lawrence and Bundaberg.

Dangerous surf is expected around the exposed beaches south of Sandy Cape, as well as thunderstorms before the cyclone hits the coast.

Heavy rainfall will develop around coastal and island communities between Mackay and Double Island Point today, with the area already on flood watch.

Meanwhile, the BoM forecasts Lam will reach category four before crossing the coast early tomorrow.

Northern Territory police confirmed today that Goulburn Island, 300km east of Darwin, was being evacuated.

At present, sustained winds near the centre have reached 140km/h, with gusts of 195km/h. Gales are forecast between Elcho Island and Nhulunbuy this morning.

Queensland is expecting its worst weather event in two years, with Marcia bringing with it the threat of wind and rainfall reminiscent of those that brought devastation in the 2011 floods, and again in 2012.

Surfers Paradise braces for Cyclone Marcia's arrival. Picture: Kit Wise Source: News Corp Australia

Preparations underway to protect the Gold Coast. Picture: David Clark Source: News Corp Australia

Satellite pictures of tropical storm headed for the Queensland coast. Picture: NASA/Modis Source: Supplied

Where Cyclone Marcia has been, and is expected to go. Source: CourierMail

The state is bracing for a hammering with the category-two cyclone bringing floods, a tidal surge and beach erosion which is already being felt ahead of the worst of Marcia.

Beaches were closed along the coast yesterday and sandbagging had already begun last night as the tropical low loomed, and rescue crews are preparing for the worst.

Coastal residents are warned of the dangerous storm tide as the cyclone crosses the coast.

"The sea is likely to rise steadily up to a level well above the normal tide, with damaging waves and flooding of some low-lying areas close to the shoreline," a BoM statement said.

"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."

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Deputy Commissioner Mark Roche said it was vital for residents to prepare for severe weather now.

"Check your house, in particular the roof, is in good condition, keep branches clear of the house, clean gutters and clear your property of debris," Mr Roche said.

A major stretch of the Queensland coast will be saturated by heavy rain when the tropical low crosses the coast today.

Residents from St Lawrence, north of Rockhampton, to the NSW border have been warned to expect destructive winds, rough seas and abnormally high tides.

Some Gold Coast beaches were closed today due to large surf. Picture: Jerad Williams Source: News Corp Australia

THE RAINS ARE COMING

Up to 500mm of rain is expected to fall in some areas over coming days.

But Queensland Fire and Rescue Service Commissioner Katarina Carroll said crews were well prepared.

"We've looked at the event from St Lawrence downwards, so we have got swift water rescue staff pre-positioned in many of those areas because we've got well over 200 (emergency service workers) trained for this," she said.

Authorities have repeatedly urged residents not to enter floodwaters.

QFES spokesman Peter Jeffrey said most areas would receive around 300mm rainfall, and warned winds had picked up in the past 12 hours.

"Given the current rate of progress of the cyclone we've got some opportunity to make some final preparations," he said.

"Given the speed the wind is now getting up to there's still an opportunity to make sure there's nothing loose around the back yard. Localised flooding is expected so the key message as always is if it's flooded forget it, it's too unsafe, you don't know what's going on underneath that water."

Up to 6m swells are expected across the coast. Picture: Luke Marsden. Source: News Corp Australia

DOUBLE-PRONGED THREAT

Lam is currently rated a Category 4, but is expected to intensify before it hits. The cyclone is already powerful, with wind gusts up to 195km/h.

The cyclone is north northwest of the NT's fifth largest town of Nhulunbuy where locals have already begun queuing for essentials and emergency shelters are open.

Empty shelves at Woolworths in the town centre. Source: News Corp Australia

While it is unlikely the cyclone will cross the coast at any major towns, there are a number of Aboriginal communities in the area that could face the full front of the system.

Police have warned people to stay away from waterways, to avoid driving into water of an unknown depth, to stay away from fallen powerlines, and to create their own sandbags out of whatever bags or material is at hand to stave off rising waters.


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