| Weather forecasters say "Hamish" weakening, unlikely to make landfall
| Sunday, March 8, 2009
|Weather forecasters say tropical cyclone Hamish is unlikely to hit the Queensland coast as it continues to whip up huge tides from the state's north to the Wide Bay region.
The storm is still classified as category 4, but the Bureau of Meteorology says it is weakening. At about 5am AEST it was 230 kilometres north-east of Yeppoon and moving slowly south parallel to the central Queensland coast.
Wind gusts of up to 100 kilometres per hour are still expected to hit areas between Yeppoon and Hervey Bay in the next 24 hours.
High tides could cause localised flooding in the Wide Bay region.
Weather bureau forecaster Ann Farrell says the system has weakened and is not likely to make landfall at all.
"The situation's looking much improved on how it was during yesterday, but we're still not out of the woods and we should remain vigilant," she said.
"There is a slight chance always with these things that they can move in towards the coast.
"Should that do so, it would really require the environmental conditions probably to actually weaken the system before it did that. For the moment, it's more likely to remain offshore."
The highest tides of the year have been recorded along parts of the coastline overnight.
Forecaster Manfred Greitschus says some of those tides may be moving up onto the coast north of the cyclone warning zone.
"Up around Mackay and even up onto the coast just south of Proserpine," he said.
"As the cyclone moves south, the winds will gradually increase further south down towards Lady Elliot Island and Herron Island over the next 24 hours."
Lady Elliot Island and Herron Island have both been evacuated.
Tourists have been also evacuated from Great Keppel Island, off Yeppoon, about 20 residents are staying put.
Lou Stokes, who runs the local store, is among about residents still on the island.
Ms Stokes says the wind has picked up but there has been little rain so far.
"We're pretty well battened down all ready for whatever happens," she said.
"We've got marine radio that if our phone lines go down, which we're hoping they won't and SES [State Emergency Service] have been in contact with us as well.
"Warnings have been good. We actually had a get together about 1pm AEST today and just sort of chatted through what anything that we felt necessary, but everybody's pretty happy with how they've battened down and we're all ready for it."
The SES has sandbagged 500 homes in the Yeppoon area and another 80 at nearby Emu Park, and set up a command centre with 20 volunteers are on standby in case weather conditions deteriorate.
The Yeppoon Base Hospital was evacuated yesterday, with patients being transferred to Rockhampton hospitals.
Residents are being told to consider getting out by tonight and not wait until the last minute.
Strong winds are expected to develop between Shoalwater Bay and Gladstone, extending south over other exposed coastal and island communities to Bundaberg.
Forecaster Tony Wedd says heavy rain is expected in the next 24 hours or so.
"The really heavy rain bands have stayed off the coast, sort of been clustered around the centre of the cyclone," he said.
"But there is the chance that heavy rainfall may develop about the coast between about St Lawrence and Bundaberg as some of those peripheral rain bands move on shore."
Wide Bay on alert
Emergency crews have met with local authorities across the Wide Bay region where the cyclone had been predicted to make landfall on Tuesday.
Emergency Management Queensland (EMQ) spokesman Frank Pagano says residents need to be on alert.
"We're particularly interested in people living in low-lying areas and they should be prepared to move if the circumstances arrive," he said.
Mr Pagano says there are no mass evacuations in the area at this stage.
Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts says preparations are well advanced in the Wide Bay region.
"The current computer modelling shows it moving slightly away from the coast, but the potential to move closer to the coast on Tuesday," he said.
"So it still poses a significant threat particularly to the Bundaberg through to Hervey Bay area and there is a lot of planning underway to ensure that we have appropriate preparations if that occurs."
Local councils are warning residents not to be complacent.
Fraser Coast Mayor Mick Kruger is warning residents to make the necessary safety measures.
"Take all the precautions you should. If you believe you're vulnerable, the advice is if you've got a friend in a higher area or a family, move out," he said.
The Fraser Coast South-Burnett Regional Tourism Board's David Hay says says a decision will be made this afternoon whether 150 tourists from a resort on Fraser Island need to be evacuated.
"We've made preparations in case the cyclone does come our way," he said.
"If it does it'll be early on Tuesday, so we'll assess the situation as it unfolds and should we need to ask people to move off the island completely and out of the resort we'll do that on Monday afternoon.
"I think everyone is keeping their sense of humour.
"There's certainly some people that we've been speaking to who've recently experienced flooding in north Queensland are now seeing a potential cyclone here hitting the coast as well.
"But generally people understand and obviously for their safety we need to take the necessary precautions."
Campers have already been evacuated from the island.
Mr Hay is optimistic the area will be able to recover quickly.
"Hopefully it'll be a blip on the radar and it'll pass quickly and not cause much damage," he said.
"I think overall in terms of once the weather events are over, our numbers will be fine and there's plenty of people international and Australian visitors moving up and down the coast on that pattern there so there won't be a significant effect there unless it causes a reasonable amount of damage."
|posted by Moderator Londen time 10:47 PM