Cyclone Ita downgraded after crossing Queensland coast
5.42am TROPICAL Cyclone Ita has been downgraded to a category-two cyclone.
The Bureau of Meteorology said Ita was weakening as it moves south southwest inland from Cooktown after having crossed the coast near Cape Flattery at 10pm on Friday.
"Destructive winds with gusts to 140 kilometres per hour are possible between Cape Melville and Cape Tribulation for a period this morning," the Bureau said through its website.
"Gales with wind gusts to 110 kilometres per hour are expected to develop south to Port Douglas and Cairns and adjacent inland areas including Mareeba later this morning and possibly as far south as Innisfail, Chillagoe and Cardwell later today.
"Coastal residents between Cooktown and Cairns including Port Douglas are warned of a storm tide this morning."
The bureau warned that the sea was likely to rise to a level well above the normal high tide that may produce flooding of low-lying areas.
"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 help their neighbours, and be prepared to follow instructions regarding evacuation of the area if advised to do so by the authorities."
FRIDAY: TROPICAL Cyclone Ita has made landfall in far north Queensland as a destructive category-four system.
The weather bureau says the system began crossing the coast near Cape Flattery, north of Cooktown, about 9pm, the ABC reported.
News Corp reported wind had torn the roofs off the James Cook Museum and a house in Cooktown.
Power lines had been brought down and there was damage to a number of properties.
In its 9pm advice, the Bureau of Meteorology said the cyclone warning remained for coastal areas from Coen to Innisfail including Cooktown, Port Douglas and Cairns, and extending inland to areas including Kalinga, Palmerville, Mareeba and Chillagoe.
A Cyclone watch was current for coastal areas from Innisfail to Cardwell, extending to adjacent inland areas.
At 9pm EST Severe Tropical Cyclone Ita, Category 4, was estimated to be 65 kilometres north of Cooktown and
230 kilometres north northwest of Cairns, and moving south southwest at 12 kilometres per hour.
It was crossing Cape Flattery with very destructive winds to 230 kilometres per hour near the core and gales extending out to 185 kilometres from the centre.
The cyclone is expected to continue moving southsouthwest overnight and gradually weaken, the bureau said.
The storm was downgraded from a category five this afternoon but Premier Campbell Newman has warned that communities are still "staring down quite a destructive event".
The system is bringing very destructive winds of up to 275 kilometres per hour near its centre and there are already reports that trees are down and homes have been damaged, the ABC reported tonight.
The storm is expected to make landfall between 9:00pm and midnight, between Cape Flattery and Cooktown.
The main evacuation centre in Cooktown has been locked down, while residents in the red and orange zones of Cairns are being advised to evacuate because of a potential storm surge threat.
Councils in the region say they are prepared for electricity supply to be cut to some remote communities for up to a month.
Cairns Hospital won't be evacuated
Cairns Hospital will not be evacuated for Cyclone Ita as doctors say the risk of moving critically ill patients outweighs the forecast risk from wind and storm surges.
Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said the key trigger for an evacuation of the facility - last seen during Cyclone Yasi - was the forecast of a direct impact on the facility by a Category 5 cyclone, something not expected on this occasion.
"Under the evacuation plan, drawn up by local health authorities after Cyclone Yasi, an evacuation scenario was not supported by the latest Bureau of Meteorology modelling," Mr Springborg said.
"These trigger points were developed following an engineering review of buildings on the Cairns campus which examined how they would respond to wind speed and storm surges.
"It would take about 24 hours to evacuate Cairns Hospital and on the information available last night the balance of risk was clearly in favour of staying put.
"If things change, however, the ability of the Health Service to make local decisions will enable them to respond rapidly to changing circumstances."
CHHHS Chief Executive Julie Hartley-Jones said learnings from Yasi meant her team was well prepared to deal with high winds, heavy rain or storm surges resulting from Cyclone Ita.
"We tested these plans rigorously prior to the cyclone season and feel confident our more robust communications network will enable us to manage any messaging should circumstances change," Ms Hartley-Jones said.
"We will be monitoring the situation 24/7 over the weekend, through our health emergency operations centre here in Cairns, and will adjust our plans if necessary.
"But unless circumstances change, we will be open for business as usual on Monday."
Cape Flattery experiencing winds of 125kmh from Cyclone Ita
DESTRUCTIVE winds with wind gusts in excess of 125 kilometres per hour are currently occurring at Cape Flattery and should develop elsewhere between Cape Melville and Cooktown this evening, extending south to Cape Tribulation overnight and possibly to Port Douglas during Saturday morning.
The latest Bureau of Meteorology cyclone update states that gales are occurring between Cape Melville and Cooktown and should extend south to Cape Tribulation this evening and inland to Laura and Palmerville overnight.
Gales may extend south to Cairns and Innisfail and inland to Chillagoe during Saturday, and possibly to Cardwell later in the evening.
There remains the small possibility that Ita could track south close to the coast tonight and maintain an intensity capable of generating destructive wind gusts to 150 kilometres per hour in Cairns during Saturday.
AS severe Tropical Cyclone Ita makes landfall in far north Queensland this evening, the bureau's wind experts are predicting that trees will be ripped out of the ground and roofs will be ripped off beloved homes.
The Bureau of Meteorology predicts wind speeds for the Category 5 storm to approach 300km/h as it approaches the coast near Cape Flattery, north of Cooktown.
RACQ CQ Rescue based in Mackay has been placed on standby to deploy to Townsville tomorrow, with initial plans to depart at 9am now on hold until the Severe Tropical Cyclone Ita crosses the coast and damage can be assessed.
Both RACQ CQ Rescue helicopters and 2 full crews are prepared and ready to launch at short notice, depending on weather outcomes.
The latest cyclone update states that at 3pm EST Severe Tropical Cyclone Ita, Category 5, was estimated to be 130 kilometres north northeast of Cooktown and 290 kilometres north of Cairns, and moving south southwest at 14 kilometres per hour.
A cyclone warning is current for coastal areas from Coen to Innisfail including Cooktown, Port Douglas and Cairns, and extending inland to areas including Kalinga, Palmerville, Mareeba and Chillagoe.
A cyclone watch is current for coastal areas from Innisfail to Cardwell, extending to adjacent inland areas.
The cyclone warning for coastal areas from Cape Sidmouth to Coen has been cancelled.
COOKTOWN Mayor Peter Scott has told a disaster briefing that the town faced being wiped out.
"Cooktown tomorrow, as we know it today, will not be the same tomorrow," he said.
The local disaster group unanimously supported the application for a disaster declaration.
The town will be locked down at midday.
The region's 9000 residents have been told flying debris will be a deadly risk.
Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said around 9000 people will be directly affected by Cyclone Ita.
"Around 9000 Queenslanders will be directly impacted by this system," Mr Newman said.
"They'll see those damaging winds, they'll see significant rain, they will see that storm surge."
Tropical cyclone advice number 20 from the Bureau of Meteorology states that Cyclone Ita, Category 5, was estimated to be 205 kilometres north northeast of Cooktown and 360 kilometres north of Cairns, and moving south southwest at 8 kilometres per hour.
A cyclone warning is still current for coastal areas from Cape Sidmouth to Innisfail including Cooktown, Port Douglas and Cairns, and extending inland to areas including Kalinga, Palmerville, Mareeba and Chillagoe.
A cyclone watch is current for coastal areas from Innisfail to Cardwell, and extending to adjacent inland areas.
The cyclone warning for coastal areas from Lockhart to Cape Sidmouth has been cancelled.
NOT only are residents bracing for severe winds of up to 300kmh but the Bureau of Meterology is also warning residents to be prepared for flash flooding.
At 8am EST Severe Tropical Cyclone Ita, Category 5, was estimated to be 220 kilometres north northeast of Cooktown and 370 kilometres north of Cairns, and moving southwest at 10 kilometres per hour.
The latest warning from the Bureau of Meteorology website says Ita is expected to move southwest to southsouthwest and make landfall between Cape Melville and Cooktown thisevening or tonight.
"The cyclone is expected to be weakening over land overnight, however, there remains the possibility that Ita will track southwards close to the coast tonight and maintain cyclone intensity for longer during Saturday," the warning says.
"Should this occur destructive winds with wind gusts to 150 kilometres per hour are possible at Port Douglas and Cairns during Saturday.
"Coastal residents between Cape Melville and Cape Tribulation including Cooktown are specifically warned of the dangerous storm tide as the cyclone crosses the coast later today. The sea is likely to rise steadily up to a level which will be significantly above the normal tide, with damaging waves, strong currents and flooding of low-lying areas extending some way inland.
"Coastal residents between Cape Tribulation and Innisfail including Cairns should monitor the situation in case the cyclone takes a more southerly track than expected.
"Very heavy rain, which may lead to flash flooding, is expected to develop about parts of the Peninsula and North Tropical Coast and Tablelands districts today and persist into the weekend."
Disaster Animal Response Team Australia is urging residents to evacuate their animals.
"Evacuate all animals to a dry contained shelter safe from flood waters and storm surge immediately," a spokesperson said.
"It would be of serious negligence to leave animals in a zone where a category 5 cyclone could impact.
"If animals are registered, you can take them with you to the evacuation shelter in Cook Shire."
HEAVY RAIN FOR THE COAST
IT'S going to get wet and windy in Mackay and the Whitsundays over the weekend.
On Sunday, Mackay, Bowen and the Whitsundays can expect heavy rain and stormy seas off the coast after Cyclone Ita makes landfall well north of Cairns tonight.
It is expected to then become a severe rain depression and move south.
Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Dean Narramore said there would be heavy rain in our region as the remnants of the cyclone tracked south along the coast tomorrow and Sunday.
"It will be wet, windy with a lot of rain at times and a potential for falls of 50mm to 100mm," he said.
Boaties could expect large swells.
The wild weather should clear quickly on Monday.
RESIDENTS of Far North Queensland are bracing for Tropical Cyclone Ita which, is expected to hit Queensland later today bringing winds up to 300kmh.
At 7am Severe Tropical Cyclone Ita was estimated to be 225 kilometres north northeast of Cooktown and 375 kilometres north of Cairns, and moving southwest at 11 kilometres per hour.
Ita is tipped to cross the coast as a category 5 storm, which could pack a destructive force equal to Typhoon Haiyan, which left a trail of death and damage when it ripped across across Asia with a recorded wind speed of 315kmh.
The fierce front is likely to bring massive storm surges of up to 2m above the highest high tide marks.
A warning on the Bureau of Meteorology website says Ita poses a serious threat to communities along the far north Queensland coast.
It is expected to move southwest and make landfall between Cape Melville and Cooktown later today as a category 5 tropical Cyclone with very destructive winds to 300kmh near the core and gales extending out to 200km from the centre.
"Destructive winds with wind gusts in excess of 125kmh may develop between Cape Melville and Cooktown from late morning extending south to Cape Tribulation and possibly Port Douglas later in the day," the warning says.
"Gales may develop between Lockhart River and Cape Tribulation later this morning before extending further south to Cairns and inland to Kalinga, Palmerville, and Laura, and Chillagoe tonight, and then south to Innisfail and possibly Cardwell during Saturday. By this time the cyclone is expected to be weakening over land."
Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said about 9000 people would be directly impacted in the Cooktown, Laura and Hope Vale region with a predicted storm surge with two metres of water on top of the highest high tide mark.
"But if it tracks south towards Port Douglas, Mossman, and Cairns, then we have many thousands of people and the threat of the impact of storm surge is a very real concern,'' he told News Ltd.