Tropical Cyclone Ita: major flooding as category one storm reaches TownsvilleSunday April 13, 2014 - 14:01 EST
Tropical Cyclone Ita could continue to affect residents in north Queensland until mid-week, according to the weather bureau.
The category one system moved over Townsville late this morning, bringing strong winds and heavy rain, and residents along the coast are facing flooding and power outages.
The Bureau of Meteorology says gales of up to 110 kilometres an hour are likely between Townsville and Mackay until this evening, and a cyclone warning remains current for coastal areas from Townsville to Yeppoon.
Ergon Energy crews are working busily to restore power to about 16,000 people across the region, including 6,000 in Cairns and more than 1,000 in Townsville, with some Cooktown businesses getting electricity last night.
The bureau's Greg Connor says the system is not expected to ease in severity for the rest of the day.
"It is moving very quickly, at about 26 kilometres an hour to the south-east, and we are expecting it to track towards the central coast near Proserpine, Shute Harbour, by about 9:00pm, before it moves offshore north of Yeppoon," he said.
Ingham police say the town, north of Townsville, has been cut in half by rising flood waters.
Hinchinbrook Shire Mayor Rodger Bow says residents should be prepared.
"Flooding in Ingham will last till probably later on tonight, 9:00-10:00pm but Halifax will still be flooded till Monday morning," he said.
Police have closed the Bruce Highway about 70 kilometres north of Townsville.
The city's airport has been closed and ferry services between Townsville and Magnetic Island have been cancelled.
Queensland Premier Campbell Newman is today touring areas that were hit by the cyclone on Friday night.
He is visiting Cooktown and Hope Vale, where he is getting an update on the storm's impact.
The Cook Shire Council says water supplies are critically low at Cooktown.
The Council's CEO, Steve Wilton, says it is evaluating damage and reconnecting properties to the water supply.
"People must not use a hose for any reason," he said.
"Personal consumption and minimal hygiene is all that people can use the water for.
"Police are around patrolling now because naturally people say 'oh, we've got the water back, we'll hose off our house or driveway or whatever'. That can't happen otherwise we will run out of water this afternoon."
Access to power and phone services have also been a concern and authorities say they are working as quickly as possible to restore all services.
Cooktown clean-up continues
Cooktown is still in recovery mode and could be cut off to the south for days after the Annan River burst its banks and muddy floodwaters swallowed the main supply route.
While flooding cut many roads around Cooktown, SES crews were able to reach some nearby communities, including Hope Vale, but others, such as Wujal Wujal, are still cut off.
The weather bureau's Doug Fraser says heavy downpours are set to continue.
"Lake Morris, Copperlode there, with 223mm and as you head southwards, [there were] plenty of falls over the 100mm and [they are] expected to continue," he said.
Mr Newman says the heavy rain has caused significant problems.
"In Kuranda, we have seen significant damage to one house and moderate damage to three others from trees coming down in Mossman," he said.
"Ten to 15 homes have suffered flood damage while other roads have been flooded in the area. At Port Douglas, there have been 25 to 30 residences isolated due to flooding.
"We can expect significant rainfall right down the coast. Falls of up to 300mm in locations. That means we are going to see significant flooding on various coastal rivers and creek systems.
"It means that roads will be blocked and again I urge people [to] restrict their travel to only the vital travel.
"The best way people can remain safe is to sit in their homes and wait this one out."
After a sleepless night on Friday, most Cooktown locals have not starting mopping up, with bad weather yesterday delaying clean-up and repair efforts for many residents.
Mr Newman says a number of buildings in the town were damaged or destroyed.
"There have been four buildings destroyed, four severely damaged, four moderately damaged and 42 have suffered minor damage," he said.
"Hope Vale is a community we have had great difficulty getting too. The mobile phone network is out and we will get people in from Telstra as soon as we possibly can safely."
Many who sheltered in Cooktown came from isolated properties and have had the most difficult job getting back to their homes to start repairs.
Ergon spokesman Mark Timmerman says power has been restored to most homes in the Kuranda area and crews are out in the Cairns area now that conditions have eased.
"Some good news for Cooktown, Hope Vale and Wujal Wujal customers last night; we were able to get extra crew into Cooktown via a flight," he said.
An emergency flash flooding alert was issued for the Redlynch Valley Estate near Cairns last night but the local council said no evacuations were required.
Mr Newman has appointed Inspector Kevin Gutteridge as the state's disaster recovery coordinator.
Inspector Gutteridge played a key role in organising recovery efforts in Bundaberg, in southern Queensland, following the 2013 floods.
"Inspector Gutteridge has the runs on the board working in the Bundaberg area for the last few months," Mr Newman said.
"He will come up here from Tuesday morning and he will be here for at least three months - here for as long as the job takes.
"He will coordinate the activities of state agencies and local governments. He'll be the point man with the authority to get the job done."
Worst over, but Cairns and coastal areas remain on alert
Queensland Police are renewing their appeal for motorists not to drive through floodwaters in Cairns, after several people had to be rescued overnight.
A truck driver had a lucky escape after a semi-trailer was swept off the Bruce Highway south of Cairns.
Senior Sergeant James Coate says police rescued a woman who attempted to drive through floodwaters at Yorkeys Knob around 3:30am.
He says a drunk driver also called police last night claiming he had been bashed and had his car stolen when it had actually been swept off the road at Freshwater.
"A few people have been doing silly things, entering the floodwaters when they're clearly signed not to and as the slogan goes, if it's flooded, forget it," Senior Sergeant Coate said.
"It's a quite simple thing to remember and people just seem to be ignoring it for their own ignorant reasons."
Flash flooding is a major concern for residents in Cairns as the rain continues.
Ita is expected to maintain its tropical cyclone intensity as it tracks down the coast.
© ABC 2014
More breaking news
Vast areas of Queensland have experienced the hottest May night since records began, some of which stretch back to the 1800s.
For the majority of Australia April was warmer and drier than average.
Strong winds and heavy rain lashed parts of Victoria overnight, with hundreds of residents calling the State Emergency Service (SES) for help.