Cyclone Ita: Now a category one storm but flooding expected

Cyclone Ita has been downgraded to a category one storm, the Bureau of Meteorology has advised.

A cyclone warning is still current for coastal areas from Cape Flattery to Cardwell including Cooktown, Port Douglas and Cairns, and extending inland to areas including Mareeba and Chillagoe.

At 10am, Cyclone Ita was 75km south southwest of Cooktown and 125km northwest of Cairns, moving south at about 11 km/h.

Qantas said in a statement that it had cancelled all Qantas and QantasLink flights in and out of Cairns until midnight Saturday. It is expected to provide an update later in the afternoon.

The airline said all affected customers would be contacted by Qantas or their travel agent.

Meanwhile, Jetstar has cancelled all 17 scheduled flights to and from Cairns on Saturday. It cancelled five flights on Friday.

The carrier said customers would be contacted with alternative travel options.

Meanwhile a major flood warning is in place for the Daintree River.

There are minor flood warnings for the Balonne, Mulgrave, and Tully rivers.

Saturday 9.30am: Speaking from Cairns, Queensland Premier Campbell Newman says police and emergency services are checking the streets and Hopevale and Cooktown.

So far, no deaths or injuries have been reported.

There have been mixed reports about damage, he told Channel Nine.

Daryl Camp, from Emergency Management Queensland, says emergency crews are assessing the damage in Cooktown.

‘‘We’re hoping to be able to do that fairly quickly this morning, we’ve got two crews doing rapid damage assessment and two crews doing cleanup and trying to see if anybody needs assistance,’’ Mr Camp told ABC Radio.

He says it will be safe for people to leave their houses and shelters when the winds dies down about 9am or 10am.

‘‘But we’ll have to wait and see what Ita has done,’’ he added.

EARLIER SATURDAY:

The Cairns Local Disaster Management Group an updated warning about storm surges in the region.

As a result, the management group has decided to close the storm tide cyclone shelter at the Edmonton Leisure Centre.

Those who have taken shelter in the facility will be moved to Redlynch State College.

Fraudsters are offering to relocate the belongings of far north Queensland residents affected by tropical cycle Ita, Premier Campbell Newman warns.

Mr Newman says callers posing as SES volunteers are phoning people in Cairns and offering to shift their goods to a safer place.

Cooktown Mayor Peter Scott says he’s feeling relieved as he had expected to wake up to wide-spread devastation.

‘‘There’s a lot of vegetation on the road and we’ve unfortunately seen some buildings damaged,’’ he said.

‘‘But there hasn’t been a lot of structural damage.’’

New Zealand film maker Geoff Mackley is in Cooktown and reports there is ‘‘very little damage’’.

‘‘They got off lightly,’’ he said. ‘‘The main damage is to a hotel that had its entire roof taken off.’’

Strong gales and heavy rain continue to batter Cooktown in far north Queensland where locals are waking up to assess the damage caused by weakening Cyclone Ita.

Roofs were ripped from at least two homes and a pub after fierce winds tore through the coastal community overnight.

Large trees have been uprooted and branches, fence posts and snapped powerlines are strewn across roads.

Most residents have been without power since yesterday afternoon.

And the danger isn’t over, with cyclone warnings current for coastal areas from Cape Melville to Cardwell including Cooktown, Port Douglas and Cairns, and inland to areas including Mareeba and Chillagoe.

FRIDAY: Reports on Twitter on Friday suggest people in Innisfail, hit hard in recent years by cyclones Yasi and Larry, are also getting the calls.

Some have been preparing for the onslaught all day.

Cyclone Ita has hit far north Queensland’s coast with wind speeds of more than 200 km/h.

The category four cyclone’s eye crossed Cape Flattery, more than 300km north of Cairns, around 9pm and will gradully track southwards.

Hundreds of residents across the coast have hunkered down at cyclone shelters.

In its 9pm update, the Bureau of Meteorology advises a cyclone warning is current for coastal areas from Coen to Innisfail including Cooktown, Port Douglas and Cairns as well as extending inland to areas including Kalinga, Palmerville, Mareeba and Chillagoe.

A cyclone watch is current for coastal areas from Innisfail to Cardwell, extending to adjacent inland areas.

The cyclone is crossing the coast near Cape Flattery with destructive winds of 230 km/h near the core.

Gales extend 185 km from the centre and powerful wind gusts of more than 125km/h are expected to develop between Cape Melville and Cooktown and reach as far south as Port Douglas by Saturday morning.

There’s a possibility that Ita could track south close to the coast, bringing wind gusts of 150km/h to Cairns on Saturday.

Coastal residents between Cape Flattery and Cape Tribulation, including Cooktown, are being warned of the dangerous storm tide.

‘‘The sea is likely to rise steadily up to a level which will be significantly above the normal tide, with damaging waves, strong currents and flooding of low-lying areas extending some way inland,’’ the Bureau of Meteorology says.

Reinforcements have arrived at Cairns Airport.

Cairns Airport has announced no scheduled flights will continue after midnight.

"Operations will continue as normal until the last scheduled passenger flight has departed tonight (VA792 to Brisbane at 2110 and JQ951 to Melbourne at 2005)," the airport announced on its Facebook page.

"From 2400 tonight Cairns Airport will have no scheduled services operating, essential staff will remain onsite overnight and emergency flights will be facilitated as required."

Severe Tropical Cyclone Ita was about 65km north of Cooktown and 230km north northwest of Cairns at 10pm and moving south southwest at 10km/h at 10pm.

The Bureau of Meteorology advises the category 4 cyclone is still crossing the coast near Cape Flattery, bringing ‘‘very destructive winds’’ up to 230km/h.

The cyclone is expected to continue moving south southwest overnight and gradually weaken.

And the anticipated soaking has prompted the Bureau of Meteorology to issue a flood warning for coastal rivers and inland streams between Cooktown and Townsville.

Severe Tropical Cyclone Ita is expected to bring heavy rainfall, with 24-hour totals of 100-200mm forecast but some areas could possibly receive up to 500mm.

Here is a list of the at-risk rivers plus a creek:

Speaking from Cairns to Sky News, Premier Campbell Newman expected there would be damage to older buildings in the cyclone zone.

But so far, he believed the far north had fared ‘‘a little bit better than we would have thought 12 hours ago’’.

Authorities were working out plans to move in for the clean up.

Rainfall will increase in Cairns and Port Douglas towards morning. There is also a storm surge watch with flooding possible along the coast in these areas.

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