Category five Tropical Cyclone Maria has made landfall on the Central Queensland coast, lashing the area of Shoalwater Bay with winds of nearly 300 kilometres per hour.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk warned residents to stay inside their homes as the storm crossed over Yeppoon and St Lawrence, causing ‘widespread destruction’.
A very destructive central core, spanning more than 70 kilometres, has already generated wind gusts of up to 285 kilometres an hour.
The storm surge is expected to bring waves of 2.6 metres, with coastal areas evacuated overnight.
Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said the impending storm was a “desperate situation” and warned people to take shelter.
“This is going to be a calamity, no doubt about that,” Mr Stewart said.
More than 100 schools schools have been closed and areas like Yeppoon – which will bear the “full brunt” of the cyclone – have already been evacuated.
The BoM classifies a category five system as ‘extremely dangerous with widespread destruction’, with residents warned by authorities of high winds, heavy rainfall and flash flooding to come.
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BoM Queensland weather services manager Richard Wardle said the relatively small cyclone, however, would rapidly decay once it made landfall, going from a “category five to category one in less than 24 hours”.
New Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she was “very concerned” for people’s safety, and warned some Queenslanders were about to have a “harrowing and terrifying experience”.
“We will be with you every step of the way,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“We want you to stay in your homes… do not go outside in any circumstances”.
Eight-hundred homes in the Yappoon area have been door-knocked and told to evacuate.
On the Sunshine Coast, more than 5000 homes and businesses are reportedly without power after heavy rainfall overnight, with some areas receiving 163mm since Thursday.
Two fishermen were rescued in waters off Fraser Island on Friday morning after their boat sunk on Thursday night.
This comes as category three Tropical Cyclone Lam has forced the evacuations of remote communities in the north-east of the Northern Territory on Thursday.
Cyclone Lam makes landfall
The Northern Territory continues to be battered by category four Tropical Cyclone Lam, which made landfall at approximately 2am on Friday morning.
A spokesperson for the NT weather bureau said wind gusts of up to 260 kilometres per hour had been recorded and thousands of residents had been left without power.
While cyclone conditions are expected to remain for the next 12 to 24 hours, the storm will decay to a category one on Friday evening.
Coastal areas have already been hit by flash-flooding, with more than 400 residents evacuated via plane and helicopter to Darwin on Thursday.
Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles said there were no known fatalities or serious injuries but told residents to stay “bunkered down”.
Emergency precautions in place
In Queensland, the State Emergency Service received more than 600 requests for assistance on Thursday, mostly in the Sunshine Coast and other parts of south-east Queensland.
Meanwhile, Qantas flights to and from the Hervey Bay, Bundaberg and Rockhampton regions have been cancelled.
Virgin Australia has cancelled six services on Thursday to and from Gladstone and Rockhampton.
Most of Queensland’s beaches were closed due to the intensifying storm.
Flash flooding expected, coastal towns may be cut off
On the Sunshine Coast, the region’s disaster management co-ordinator Andrew Ryan said flash flooding was expected in low-lying areas and some hinterland towns might be cut off.
Mr Ryan said the wild weather was coinciding with the highest king tides of the year.
“We have concerns with a couple of low-lying caravan parks and unfortunately we know that some of our areas such as Golden Beach and Maroochydore foreshores, roads, will go under as well with those high tides and a bit of a storm surge and those high swells,” he said.
“The combination could mean some localised disruptions and some stormwater overflows if the rainfall’s coming down intensively at the same time.”
The Noosa State Emergency Service (SES) distributed sandbags to hinterland towns as well as low-lying coastal areas.
SES controller Stan Ryan said if predicted rainfall hit the area it was likely some homes and business could go under water.
Click on the links below for weather updates, emergency assistance and emergency shelter locations.
For help during a flood or storm phone the SES on132 500, or for life-threatening emergencies phone 000.
Queensland residents and the media on Thursday were tweeting about the approaching cyclone.
– with ABC/AAP