March 19, 2006
|Australia Hit With Category 5 Hurricane||Environment|
The northeast coast of Australia is being hit with a category 5 hurricane. AP:
A powerful tropical cyclone packing winds of up to 290 kilometers per hour (180 mph) has slammed into Australia's northeastern coast Monday after more than 1,000 tourists and local residents were evacuated to higher ground, the weather bureau said. [...]
The weather bureau on Monday upgraded the storm to a category five — the strongest category possible — and thousands of local residents were evacuated ahead of the cyclone's arrival.
There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage, but officials predicted the storm could cause widespread devastation.
[Forecaster Jonty] Hall said conditions were "terrible" in the region, and warned of surging coastal tides and gale force winds along a 300-kilometer (186-mile) stretch of coast in northeastern Queensland.
"There's extremely dangerous conditions," he said. "We're starting to see a very dangerous storm surge come to shore ... It doesn't get much worse than this." [...]
Late Sunday, Queensland state Counter Disaster and Rescue Services executive director Frank Pagano compared the potential force of Larry to Katrina, which ravaged the United States' Gulf states in August last year, killing more than 1,300 people.
"This is the most devastating cyclone that we could potentially see on the east coast of Queensland for decades ... there is going to be destruction," Pagano told reporters in the state capital of Brisbane. [...]
Pagano warned residents to stay away from areas likely to become flooded, saying water often posed a much higher danger than gale force winds during cyclones.
"Buildings themselves may withstand the force of the winds because of our building codes, however, a category four and category five will be devastating," Pagano said. [Emphasis added]
Fortunately, no major city lies in the storm's path. The two largest cities that will be affected are Cairns, with a population of 125,000, and Townsville, population 160,000. Wikipedia has a page on the storm, here.