Cyclone Yasi Forces Queensland Evacuations
Cyclone Yasi: 'Monster, Killer Storm' Threatens Far North Queensland Coast
[Update: Cyclone Yasi has been upgraded to a Category 5 storm as it approaches Queensland]
Queensland, still swamped by massive flooding, is facing a new threat: Cyclone Yasi, which is due to hit the coast early on February 3. Cyclone Yasi's projected path has it making landfall right on top of Cairns, a tourist destination for those visiting the Great Barrier Reef and the Far North Queensland rainforests.
Cyclone Yasi, now on par with Hurricane Katrina in terms of strength, is modeled to be more destructive than Cyclone Larry, which hit in 2006. Currently, the Queensland coast is experiencing 155km/hr winds, following a heavy rain dump from the remnants of Cyclone Anthony.
Cyclone Larry is expected to reach Category 4, bringing 250 km/h (156mph) winds and a 7-meter (21ft) storm surge.
The Australian Defence Force was called in to relocate patients from Cairns hospitals as over 30,000 people have been ordered to evacuate. Cairns airport will be closed on the evening of February 1, with some carriers suspending flights already. Residents and tourists alike are crowding makeshift shelters.
Yasi is expected to be Queensland's worst cyclone, covering something approaching twice the physical size of Cyclone Larry, which devastated Innisfail in 2006 and left a $1.5 billion damage bill.
He said like January's devastating floods, Yasi will most likely be a state event.
"It's going to affect a much larger area (than ex-cyclone Anthony) both with rainfall and wind and because of its size and strength, it's likely to persist as a cyclone even after it crosses land," Mr Banks told ABC Radio.