Tropical Cyclone Nathan: Storm crosses the coast north of Cooktown, Australia
Tropical Cyclone Nathan is crossing the far north Queensland coast between Cape Melville and Cape Flattery, north of Cooktown.
The cyclone hit the coast as a category four system but was later downgraded to a category three, and the Bureau of Meteorology said the cyclone was about 110 kilometres north-west of Cooktown, moving west at 19 kilometres per hour as of 6:00am (AEST).
It said the system was making landfall between Cape Melville and Cape Flattery with winds near the centre at 155 kilometres an hour and gusts up to 220 kilometres an hour.
BoM said it was expected to continue to move west this morning while weakening.
The town of Cooktown lies south of the where the cyclone is crossing but gusts of up to 150 kilometres an hour are currently affecting the coastal inland areas in between.
Winds of up to 120 kilometres per hour are occurring between Coen and Cape Tribulation, north of the cyclone.
Acting Assistant Commissioner Peter Jeffery said Cooktown residents appeared to have dodged a bullet.
“I think we’ve been fortunate that it has gone in and affected more remote areas where there is less population,” he said.
At this stage the weather was too wild for residents and authorities to go out and assess the damage.
Nearly 500 people have been left without power in the Hope Vale area.
Hope Vale Mayor Greg McLean said locals were waiting to be given the OK by authorities to leave their homes and assess the damage.
He urged residents to remain indoors until it was safe to leave.
“The message is stay at home, don’t move if there’s power lines down, don’t come out of your house, keep the children inside – it’s dangerous,” he said.
“Probably there is power lines down – just be safe look after yourself, look after your children, look after everybody.”
ABC reporter Sharnie Kim said conditions in Cooktown appeared to have been “weaker than feared”.
“It’s been a noisy, blustery night in Cooktown, with violent wind gusts throttling large trees, and rattling doors and windows,” she said.
“The wind gusts did pick up to about 80 kilometres … but they’ve dropped back down again.
“We’ve just gone for a quick drive around the town and it does look as though it has emerged relatively unscathed.
“The local SES has received only one report of damage so far – a broken window at a real estate agent on the main drag.
“We’ve also seen a tree with a broken branch but the palm trees have most of their fronds on so certainly looking like a far less damaging situation compared to during Cyclone Ita last year.
“While about 480 people are without power in the nearby Endeavour River and Hope Vale areas, the power in Cooktown is fortunately still on, but the water’s been turned off as a precaution. About 70 residents spent the night at Cooktown’s refuge.”
Peter, a resident of Poison Creek west of Cooktown, said they had lost power and that there were “copping it”.
“It’s really blowy, I can’t give you wind strengths or anything like that, but it’s really blowing and raining really hard at the moment, so we’re definitely copping it,” he said.
Barry from the Exchange Hotel in Coen said although the cyclone missed the town, locals had been on edge.
“Yesterday I panicked a bit – I thought it was going to come across the coast and sneak up behind us and come in from the back door,” he said.
“This time we locked the big sails over the pub and that and we had free beers and everything else.
“Locals in the town – we pulled all our sails down, we cleaned up the yard, which I haven’t done that since owning the pub in the last five years.”
Residents of inland areas including Laura and Palmerville, north to Lockhart River, should prepare for strong gales of up to 120 kilometres an hour later this morning.
Coastal residents between Cape Melville and Cooktown were warned of the dangerous storm tide that could occur as the cyclone crosses the coast.
BoM said there could be damaging waves and flooding in some low-lying areas, which could also extend some way inland.
Emergency services warn of storm surge
Queensland State Emergency Services acting assistant commissioner Peter Jeffrey said it was fortunate that the cyclone crossed at low tide.
“As the effects of Nathan continue and we approach a higher tide later in day, we’ve issued a caution with regards to storm surge … that will occur around 9:00am,” he said.
“And so we’re monitoring that at this moment, and we urge caution so that people are aware that tides will be higher than usual, and that may pose some risk.
“When you consider that it potentially could have crossed through one of our … more densely populated areas, I think we’ve been fortunate that it has gone in and affected a more remote areas and where there is less population.”
Residents were asked to bunker down from 6:00pm Wednesday, amid the risk the cyclone could have hit further south than predicted.
More than 200 SES and search and rescue teams have been deployed and 72 police are on the ground.
Ergon Energy has put 170 depot staff across the Far North on alert, while 90 field staff are set to leave Townsville this morning to be staged in Cairns and a further 140 staff are on standby as required.
About 70 people took refuge in Cooktown’s cyclone shelter overnight, which can cater for up to 650.
Widespread rainfall totals of 250 to 350 mm are possible from Thursday afternoon through to Saturday morning, with isolated falls of up to 450 mm.
The heavier rainfall totals are expected north of Port Douglas.
It has been eight days since Cyclone Nathan first formed in the Coral Sea.
The storm’s first pass by the far north Queensland coast last week dumped large amounts of rain, damaged roads and cut off parts of Cape York.
Courtesy of ABC Net