North Queensland residents were warned to evacuate low-lying areas earlier today as the state braces for Cyclone Yasi.
‘‘I cannot say in strong enough terms, you have to take this window of opportunity to evacuate,’’ State Premier Anna Bligh warned. ‘‘It will close within the next three hours. Do not bother to pack bags, just grab each other and get to a place of safety.’’
The cyclone has been escalated to a Category Five event and is expected to hit between Cairns and Cardwell at 10pm (Queensland time) this evening, coinciding with the high tide. It is expected to hit with winds of up to 300km/h, torrential rain and floods.
Premier Bligh said that the timing of the cyclone meant a very dangerous storm surge could affect a large stretch of the Queensland coast.
“The next 24 hours is going to be frankly a very terrifying 24 hours for many people in the danger area,” she said.
“Now is the time for people to prepare themselves and their families and their children mentally for what they’re about to experience.”
Already, the approaching cyclone has brought down the Bureau of Meteorology’s weather radar on Willis Island, north east of Cairns, following strong winds at approximately 8am this morning.
Major transport systems have also been disrupted, with all ports closed and major arterials to be closed for safety reasons.
Premier Bligh warned that driving conditions will become impossible.