Posted by: jkirkby8712 | February 2, 2011

WEDNESDAY 2 February 2010 – predicted catastrophic cyclone about to hit coast of North Queensland!

At 10 am this morning, the Queensland Premier Ana Blyth was warning residents of tropical North Queensland, that if they have not yet evacuated their homes, or made adequate preparations, they have just three hours of a ‘window of opportunity’ to do so – tropical cyclone Yasi has been upgraded to category five as it nears the north Queensland coast.

Reports this morning, indicated that the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) in Brisbane said that at 5am AEDT Yasi was about 650km northeast of Cairns and the same distance northeast of Townsville, moving west southwest at 30km/h. The cyclone has now reached category five and will continue to move in a west-southwesterly direction during today,” the BoM said on its website this morning.  Winds with gusts to 90km/h are expected on coastal islands later this morning, then extend on to the coast during the day. Gusts over 125km/h are expected between Cooktown and Ingham this afternoon, and gusts reaching above 280km/h between Port Douglas and Cardwell this evening.   Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from low-lying areas as the cyclone approaches, with its full fury expected to hit the region around Cairns sometime after 10pm today. The Australian Defence Force was called in to evacuate hundreds of patients from two Cairns hospitals who started arriving in Brisbane on Tuesday evening.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said on Tuesday mandatory evacuation orders were being given in council areas from Cook to Hinchinbrook for people in flood-risk areas. Cairns Airport will close at 10am (AEDT) today. 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.

Further updates to follow!

Ten  hours later, which just 2 to 3 hours before landfall of the cyclone, a storm which is believed to be the strongest storm in the last 92 years – presumably that applies to North Queensland, doesn’t take account of Darwin’s Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Eve/Day 1974, which admittedly took everyone by surprise in a town that was not ready or prepared for a cyclone that year. In Queensland today, it would be fifficult not to be aware of what was coming – and by now, this evening, the advice is, if you have not evacuated away from potential areas likely to be worst hit, then you should stay where you are, in most cases, in homes. Predictions are now that this is likely to be the most catastrophic cyclone ever to hit Queensland, with 300 kmh winds, associated with huge ‘tidal waves’ [in some areas estimated at likely to reach 8-9 metres], a combination  that is expected to devastate a vast stretch of highly populated coastline. In fact, evacuations in far north Queensland have now ceased, with residents being warned to prepare for isolation in their homes as Cyclone Yasi bears down. That isolation and accompanying terror could last for up to 24 hours.

While my brother Colin & wife Angela are a few hundred kilometres south of the expected southern perimeter of the cyclonic area, I would expect that they too [in Rockhampton] are likely to experience some fairly wide weather. I guess they are also grateful at this time, that they didn’t decide to settle on the coast [as was suggested to them] but instead located inland. Premier Anna Bligh, who was very prominent during the recent Queensland flood crisis,  told reporters in Brisbane people should stay in their homes and bunker down for the biggest cyclone since World War I and prepare to “become a first-responder”.”No one should be leaving home now. The time for movement and evacuation has now passed,” she said.”We expect to see very dramatic acceleration of wind and wind gusts over the next 24 hours. It is now time for all movement and evacuations to cease.” More than 10,600 people are in evacuation centres, including school halls and shopping centres, to ride out the storm.

Already, electricity has gone down – 3000 properties in Airlie Beach – and the streets in the northern towns are deserted. People are now being urged to remain in their homes, buttress the smallest room in the house with mattresses and doonas, and stay there. They should take enclosed shoes, food and drinking water to last until the cyclone completely passes. “This is, I know, an incredibly frightening time,” the Premier said.  Meanwhile, disaster co-ordinator Ian Stewart warned people the emergency services may not be able to respond to calls at the height of the cyclone, as it would be life-threatening to them. “People are going to be virtually isolated for some time,” he said. “Understand that for some point it becomes too dangerous.”

Meanwhile, thousands of kilometres away down here in Victoria another vicious heat day seems to be producing storms of it’s own as I see the lightning flashing outside to the tune of huge claps of thunder. Down in East Gippsland, they are probably hoping for rain, as they battle a series of bushfires which have broken out in that part of the state – ironically, the areas that didn’t get as much rain as the rest of Victoria over the past few weeks!

Today seems to be all about the weather!  But why that, because it is certainly what is dominating the news today. Though I must say I’m getting sick of hearing Julia Gillard tell us what great displays of mateship Queenslanders are displaying, how tough they are, they will get through all this, blah blah blah  –  no different to the rest of Australia, yet the way she is carrying on, it’s as if they are a separate breed performing acts of ‘bravery and courage’ that the rest of Australia hasn’t got. Of course they are, but no different to anywhere else in the country in the same circumstances, as we’re already seen down here in Victoria and other parts of the eastern states over the past few weeks. She sounds so pathetic the way she carries on sometimes, would be  creating a better impression, in my view by keeping her mouth shut sometimes!! To me, her method of trying to sound supportive and sympathetic comes out in another way – the word mushy comes to mind, but I’m actually searching for something else, I heard the word used last night to describe the woman, and I thought it fitted perfectly –  one of those solutions that is on the tip of your tongue, but you can’t draw it out!! Later maybe@

In the meantime, Tony Abbott continues to voice opposition to the PM’s flood levy proposals. I get annoyed occasionally at his ‘opposition for the sake of opposing’ but I do think that this plan like others of recent years by Labor  [take the East Timor refugee processing centre, which will never happen anyway] have been put forward without a great deal of thought and planning. Abbott writes [and in doing so, he rightfully points to the ‘Australian’ character instead of just Queensland]:-

‘The devastation wrecked by the floods across our nation brought out the best of the Australian character. Family, friends, neighbours and countless benefactors have displayed enormous generosity towards their fellow Australians in trouble. The task now ahead is to repair and rebuild. The Coalition is committed to doing everything necessary to get the infrastructure of Queensland, northern NSW and northern Victoria operational again. But we disagree with the Government on how to pay for it. We believe the costs for repairing and rebuilding infrastructure damaged and destroyed by the floods should come from Budget savings, not from a new tax.   Julia Gillard is trying to pitch her proposed flood tax as a “mateship” tax, but mateship is about helping people, not taxing them. Only a Prime Minister who is out of her depth would seek to exploit people’s generosity to flood victims to try to win acceptance for yet another new tax. Australian families and businesses should not have to endure yet another new tax on top of the mining tax and the carbon tax that the Gillard Government intends to introduce in 2011. There is a world of difference between a levy to fund unavoidable extra spending when there is no fat in the Budget and the Gillard Government’s latest raid on people’s wallets. Julia Gillard oversees a $350 billion national budget. It defies credibility to deny that an extra $1.8 billion in savings cannot be identified in an annual budget of that magnitude. Projects such as the National Broadband Network could easily be deferred. If it was our decision, it would be scrapped and the taxpayer saved billions of dollars in more government debt. The Government still hasn’t spent around $15 billion of its stimulus money, and there is about $2 billion uncommitted in various funds such as the Building Australia Fund. The Coalition has offered to sit down with the Prime Minister in the spirit of bipartisanship and in the national interest to come up with the additional $1.8 billion in savings needed to pay what’s necessary without the new tax. Hardworking Australians, struggling to meet their own family budgets, deserve nothing less’. 

Tony Abbott is right in suggesting that he has wanted to sit down with the government and work out a joint proposal – unfortunately he put everyone offside immediately by coming straight out on the attack, and thereby gave plenty of ammunition for his opponents – ‘ohh Abbott’s just opposing the idea because that’s what he always does’. Sometimes I have to wonder about the quality of his advisors!! But enough of that for now. My attention is drawn back to the worsening situation in Queensland  –  which despite the tone of the PM’s comments, does deserve the full concern and prayers of all Australians.

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