On the same day as Cyclone Lam lashed the Northern Territory, hundreds of thousands of Queenslanders have been battered by category five Tropical Cyclone Marcia.
It was just the sixth recorded category five cyclone to hit Australia.
Despite the battering, there were no reports of deaths or serious injuries in either Queensland or the Northern Territory, where Cyclone Lam was downgraded to a category one storm.
“Our preliminary reports are quite encouraging,” Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.
“We are very, very thankful we have avoided the worst of what could’ve been an absolute catastrophe if those winds had escalated and the category five had gone straight over Yeppoon.”
The storm made landfall at Shoalwater Bay in Central Queensland at 5am Friday morning, bringing with it wind gusts of up to 285 kilometres an hour and waves of three metres.
By the time Cyclone Marcia was downgraded to a category four system at 11am, 40,000 homes were without power and dozens of roads across the state were flooded.
Hundreds of residents bunkered down in emergency centres, while Queensland supermarket shelves were cleared of their goods.
Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart warned Friday would be a “calamity”, while Ms Palaszczuk begged residents to remain inside their homes.
“This will be a harrowing and terrifying experience. We are in a desperate situation,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
But while some low-lying houses were destroyed, roofs ripped off and trees torn apart, emergency personnel were relieved as the damage was far less than first feared.
The town of Yeppoon was expected to bear the brunt of the storm, with more than 800 homes evacuated on Thursday night, but the storm grazed the area instead and headed directly for Rockhampton.
On nearby Great Keppel Island, dramatic photos emerged of several waterfront homes crumbling into the sea.
Speaking to The New Daily as the cyclone approached, Teneille Falt from Bartlett’s Tavern in Rockhampton said they had lost power and their windows, but thirsty residents were still arriving at the pub.
“It’s pretty windy here. We’ve just had our windows cave in,” Ms Falt said.
“We were standing out the front and all these people started to rush past us and come in for alcohol and we’re trying to tell them ‘no we’re closed’.
“Everyone’s been told to stay inside until further notice.
“We’re going to have to camp at the pub tonight because you just don’t know whether people are going to come in and try to rob the place.
“We’ve lost all our drain pipes around the building and two whirlybirds on the roof.”
Swells of up to three metres didn’t scare surfers and swimmers either, with police cautioning surfers against going into the dangerous conditions.
By 1pm, Cyclone Marcia was downgraded to a category three as it hit Rockhampton, with police reporting widespread flooding, fallen power lines, and houses being unroofed.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services received more than 2,000 calls for help by lunchtime, predominantly for sandbagging and leaking roofs.
More than 290 water rescue specialists were on standby across the state, along with 800 fire and rescue officers and 12,000 Rural Fire Service volunteers.
On Twitter, reports began circulating that Zayn Malik and Louis Tomlinson of boy band One Direction were holidaying north of the storm on Hamilton Island.
Distressed teenage girls soon hijacked Twitter, begging Malik and Tomlinson to get to “the safest place possible” because they were “very worried”.
There were also fears for a cruise ship off the coast of Central Queensland which appeared to be in the middle of Cyclone Marcia’s path, but managed to safely change course.
On Friday afternoon, low-lying towns like Caboolture between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast were placed on alert for flooding.
Parts of the Gold Coast 800 kilometres away were also affected by flooding, and 60 roads on the Sunshine Coast were closed.
Cyclone Marcia was expected to be downgraded to an ex-tropical cyclone on Saturday morning, but heavy rainfall and flood conditions would remain for up to 48 hours.
Ms Palaszczuk stressed there would be no repeats of the 2011 and 2013 floods which swamped the Lockyer Valley, Ipswich and Brisbane.
Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk urged caution, but downplayed any concerns of the Brisbane River breaking its banks.
Despite several rescue operations across the state, no one was seriously injured or killed. Two fishermen were saved off Fraser Island on Friday morning after their boat sunk on Thursday night, and two women were rescued from a broken-down elevator in Yeppoon.
There were also reports of a shark washing up on Lennox Head Beach. One Yeppoon resident told the ABC he had always wanted to experience a cyclone, but after Friday said: “it’s not something that I would wish on anybody”.
Best friend is the manger at HJs, #Gladstone & sent me this of them preparing for #TCMarcia #HungryJacks #Burgerking pic.twitter.com/Blyu9Wjljb — Highly Intoxicated (@ShutUpIGotThisK) February 20, 2015