Premier Campbell Newman is pleading with southerners not to cancel their Easter breaks, as the far north dries out and cleans up after Cyclone Ita.
“The sun, by the way, is shining again,” he said. “You’re bound to have a great time.”
On Sunday, the premier choppered into Hope Vale and Cooktown, which bore the brunt of Ita when it crossed the coast as a category four storm on Friday night.
He predicted it would take about eight to 12 weeks to “really crack the back of the recovery task”.
“It’s good that there is no loss of life but I can’t stress enough (that) people have got to sit tight.”
About 50 buildings were damaged in Cooktown and another five written off.
The town’s water supply was critically low and it’s hoped power can be restored to the water treatment plant by Sunday night.
In Hope Vale, the banana farm which sustains the local economy was razed.
While the sun was shining in the towns on Sunday as well as in Cairns, the danger is not over yet.
Cyclone Ita is expected to remain its category one status until late on Monday as it weaves on and off the coast south to central Queensland.
Up to 15,000 homes are without power and regional towns are flooding.
On Sunday evening, the popular tourist destinations of Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays were being lashed by 90km/h winds, and up to 400mm of rain could soak some areas.
Just north, Bowen copped 200mm in a short period of time, overloading the storm water system.
While there has been no reports of property damage as of yet, Mr Newman says the situation is worsening.
“There is an issue where the Don River is rising very fast and expected to peak at 9pm, and that may well cause flooding problems again,” Mr Newman said.
The local bottle shop and pubs finally opened on Sunday afternoon and sales are rivalling Christmas trading.
On Monday morning, the premier will travel to Ingham where sugar cane crops have been flattened. The town is cut in two by a swollen creek and the Bruce Highway remain closed to its south.
Mayor Rodger Bow warned locals there was raw sewerage in the water and people risked disease if they ventured out.
“We had severe rain, about 300mm, and I don’t know what kilometre an hour winds, but we have trees blown down,” Cr Bow said.
Thankfully, once the cyclone passes each community, the rain is tending to clear quickly.
“There’s not much on the north of the cyclone,” senior forecaster Pradeep Singh told AAP.
“The rain should ease as the system moves away off the coast late on Tuesday, and we’ll be left with coastal showers.”
Earlier on Sunday, Ita struck Ingham, south of Townsville, flattening its vast sugar cane fields.
Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill said there had been two swift water rescues in her city, and some 7000 homes are without power.
While the winds felled some trees, there was no significant damage to property.
“It’s what the locals here call a baby blow,” she said, adding that Townsville was built to sustain cyclonic conditions.
Counting the cost
four buildings destroyed
four severely damaged including the West Coast Hotel
four moderately damaged
42 with minor damage including local hospital
320 people stayed in the cyclone shelter
1300 customers without power
essential services on back-up generators
950 customers without power
30 to 40 fallen trees have cut all roads in
100 people stayed in the cyclone shelter
minimal damage but reports not clear yet
no mobile phone service
isolated by flooding
355 customers without power
significant problems caused by heavy rain
some pockets in northern Cairns without phone or internet services
significant damage to one house and moderate damage to three others from falling trees
flood damage to 10 to 15 houses
1140 customers without power
25 to 30 residents isolated by flooding
more than 500 customers without power in the Port Douglas region
hundreds of customers without power