From Cyclone to Severe Weather Warning – Debbie Continues to leave her Mark

Tropical Cyclone Debbie has been downgraded to a tropical low and a severe Weather Warning is now current for Whitsundays, Central Highlands and Coalfields, Capricornia and parts of the Central West and Maranoa and Warrego.

Debbie 10Early this morning Cyclone Debbie was located over inland central Queensland about 100 kilometres southwest of Collinsville and 125 kilometres northwest of Moranbah and expected to continue moving southwards over the central interior of the state today before tracking southeastwards during Thursday…with it will come rain, lots of it over the next 48 to 72 hours.

BoM says while heavy rain and damaging wind gusts are currently affecting the Central Coast and Whitsundays and Central Highlands and Coalfields districts, today the focus now is for severe storm activity in other regions and for flash flooding.

Heavy falls of rain should be expected over the next 48 hours.

A Flood Watch is current for coastal catchments between Ayr and the New South Wales border, extending inland to parts of the Central Highlands and Coalfields, Central West, Maranoa and Warrego, and Darling Downs and Granite Belt forecast districts.

FoodingThere’s also damaging winds, with peak gusts of around 120km/h, with the big wet.

In the badly hit areas today the focus is on the people and the place.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says residents should brace for “shock and awe” as the damage from Cyclone Debbie becomes apparent for the first time.

“We don’t know the extent of the damage. We don’t know what injuries there are.”

The Survivors

Police and Emergency Services are swinging into action this morning to reach people who may be in difficulty in the affected regions but because of conditions Emergency services have not been able to reach until today.

Police Commissioner Ian Stewart says the storm conditions have been too dangerous for police and emergency services to operate fuBoats damaged debbielly in areas between Bowen and Mackay.

“The loss of power, the loss of phone connectivity means that there could be people right now who are in difficult and dangerous and tragic situations – we just don’t know about it.”

Police are this morning coordinating a search for two men on board a vessel that ran aground on rocks near Whitsunday Island.

It is believed the men were able to email family in New South Wales who in turn alerted police to their situation.

Aerial support commenced at first light.

QFAS chief Katarina Carroll says daylight now reveals the full extent of the billons in damage to the regions, but says her focus is on people today.

“I’m trying to make sure everyone is OK.”

More than 50,000 homes ion the Whitsundays, Mackay and Burdekin remain without power this morning and crews in the hundreds are being marshalled to restore power as quickly as possible.

The retail and tourist hub of Airlie Beach remains a mess and local businesses in the area and in Proserpine and Bowen are busy this morning with clean up and repair.

The Repair

Whitsunday Mayor Andrew Willcox has been inspecti8ng the region he loves.

“It looks like a war zone.”

Mr Willcox says his own home suffered damage.

“My own roller door blew off yesterday. Trees are down … I just had to do a bit of rally driving to get around the power pole that’s down and there’s wires down across the road about 100 yards from my house.”

Collinsville was hit overnight by Debbie, Mayor Willcox says there’s localized damage in the town.

“A pub in Collinsville lost their roof last night.”

Army Brigadier Chris FieldAustralian Army Brigadier Chris Field has been appointed to lead the recovery efforts in north Queensland following Tropical Cyclone Debbie.

The Townsville-based Brigadier Field led the Queensland Reconstruction Authority after the 2011 floods and Cyclone Yasi.

He says a team of thousands of Emergency service workers, SES volunteers and Armed Services personnel will all start cleaning up today.

The Insurance Council of Australia has declared a catastrophe to areas affected by the Category 4 tropical cyclone.

Chief executive Rob Whelan said insurers are anticipating thousands of claims to create a flood of their own from this morning.

Government.

Joint Federal and State Government Disaster Assistance for eight local government areas impacted by Cyclone Debbie has been announced.

Counter-disaster operations assistance will be made available to Burdekin, Charters Towers, Isaac, Hinchinbrook, Mackay, Palm Island, Townsville and Whitsunday regions.

Industry across Queensland is counting the cost.

Sugar cane farmers say they are cautiously optimistic that the wrath of Cyclone Debbie wouldn’t destroy their chances for a profitable year.

Cane grower’s chairman Paul Schembri, says it’s not a pretty sight.

sugar cane storm“Much of the cane looks like it’s been flattened by a rolling pin.’’

He says however the good news was that much of the industry’s infrastructure, from sugar mills to irrigation equipment, rail links, sheds and tractors, appeared to have come through the storm reasonably intact.

“And much of that flattened cane is salvageable, provided we don’t get a big flood,’’

The Bowen food bowl has taken a massive hit.

The regions output is worth half a billion dollars annually and employing 3500 people, but has taken a serious hit from Debbie – and consumers may soon pay the price.

National Farmers’ Federation president Fiona Simpson said the Bowen farmers are surveying the damage now.

“In terms of the value of possible destruction, industry groups in that region have forecast up to $1 billion worth of damage – and that’s just to crops.”

For cattle producers, there are concerns about damage to fencing in some areas and some infrastructure but most organizations say they are looking forward to the rain.

Queensland’s mining sector says members are inspecting sites across the Bowen Basin this morning but feel they have escaped the damage and flooding seen after Yasi and flooding in 2011 which closed mines for weeks.

Mines in the Bowen Basin provide 60 per cent of the world’s coking coal exports.