Far north Queensland residents are preparing for the worst as category five Cyclone Ita heads their way.
Ita was upgraded to a category five late on Thursday afternoon and is predicted to land north of Cooktown on Friday night, with a strong chance of coinciding with a 7pm high tide.
This will create dangerous storm surges, about 1.5 metres bigger than usual high tides, along a 240km stretch of coast from Port Douglas to Cape Melville, Queensland’s Bureau of Meteorology says.
The bureau’s senior forecaster Pradeep Singh says heavy rain will also trigger flash floods.
He said while Ita was intense, it’s a smaller system and would move slower than category five Cyclone Yasi in 2011 and category four Cyclone Larry in 2006.
It’s expected to bring 280km/h winds when it hits the coast, with 9000 people directly in its path.
Cooktown mayor Peter Scott said cyclone shelters were being put up Thursday night as winds of up to 100 km/hr were forecast to hit the town on Friday morning.
“It’s coming in faster and bigger than we first thought it was going too,” he said while boarding up windows of his family home.
Premier Campbell Newman has pleaded for campers and residents in low lying areas to seek safer shelter.
“There’ll be lots of rain, 100mm of torrential rain. That means flooding of creeks and road crossings,” he said.
“If it’s flooded forget it. Please don’t put your life at risk.”
Staff and tourists have left Lizard Island, while 50 mine workers have already abandoned the Cape Flattery silica mine township, north of Cooktown.
Some residents north of Port Douglas have already evacuated their homes.
Local Dianne Fursdon says an eerie quiet feeling has enveloped Cooktown.
“It’s really strange, everything has gone quiet,” she told AAP.
“There’s no bird sounds, no geckos and the ants are all crawling onto higher ground.”
Ms Fursdon feels confident her home will withstand the storm as she’s used five rolls of tape to secure windows.
“Maybe the roof will come off, but what the hell,” she said with a smile.
“All I need is my plonk and I’ll be fine.”
Fourteen-year-old Kathleen Stevens, her aunt and great aunt were buying buckets and jerry cans to fill with water and fuel at the 11th hour.
They’ve been warned they may have to go without water and power for some time.
The family is hopeful their home can withstand the force of potentially destructive winds.
“But if it gets really bad we’re going to head to the cyclone shelter,” Kathleen told AAP.
“Or the bathroom because it’s sturdy,” her aunt Stacey Stevens added.
A cyclone watch has been declared for areas up to 300km inland, including Kalinga, Laura, Palmerville and Chillagoe.