Burdekin braces to ride out storm
BURDEKIN Shire Mayor Lyn McLaughlin took a moment before the start of this morning's Local Disaster Management Group meeting to think about her northern neighbours right in Cyclone Yasi's path.
"Our thought are with those in the eye of the cyclone but right now we need to make sure our community is safe," Cr McLaughlin said.
"There is still time for the cyclone to move further south and we'll continue to monitor its position throughout the day."
Burdekin Shire Council (BSC) CEO Ken Holt confirmed to the room what they had already heard, with Yasi reaching Category 5 status overnight.
"Winds in excess of 300kmh are being recorded at present and the tracking shows it crossing just south of Innisfail," Mr Holt said.
"It is likely we'll experience winds of up to 100kmh by early to mid-afternoon and we may need to be off the streets by midday."
Mr Holt said there had been an upgrade to storm surge estimates, which would be cause for concern for coastal townships.
"We have been making our own estimates based on Townsville figures and it looks like we definitely have to evacuate the coastal towns here as it could be 1.8m above high tide figures," he said.
"This is enough to put the water above houses in beach communities - we thought we'd leave Wunjunga and Groper Creek up to residents to evacuate or not but advice from State Government may change that."
Evacuations are already well under way at Alva Beach near Ayr, with all but two residents already packed up and moved from their homes.
BSC operations officer Trevor Williams said there had been "better news" on the rain front, with initially one metre of rain predicted for the Burdekin.
"It may not be as intense as first thought, they're now saying we'll probably get between 600 to 800mm over a 36-hour period," Mr Williams said, with the room erupting in laughs at the "better" but not great news for the already-soaked region.
"There's a possibility of a Houghton River flood by tomorrow evening and a Burdekin flood by the weekend.
"Once the storm tide is over, we're into flood mode."
As Mr Holt quietly monitored the Bureau of Meteorology radar images on a laptop computer, he suddenly whispered to the mayor and the mood changed.
"It seems we have some breaking news," Cr McLaughlin said, with Mr Holt continuing:
"I was keeping an eye on the cyclone as it moved across Willis Island and the eye of the storm - the small black dot on the coloured screen - was on the edge of Willis Island but now it says 'radar service is unavailable'," he said.
"So (the radar) is probably blown out to sea."
Cr McLaughlin said the local disaster management group would meet at 10am tomorrow, pending conditions, to assess what damage had been done to the Burdekin community.
"We have 24 hours of challenging times ahead of us," she said.