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At Least 25,000 North Queenslanders Evacuated As Debbie Nears Coast

Could make landfall as cat 4/5

At Least 25,000 North Queenslanders Evacuated As Debbie Nears Coast

Pic: WindyTV

Queensland's Airlie Beach and Whitsunday Islands are in lockdown and at least 25,000 locals between Ayr and Mackay have been evacuated as Tropical Cyclone Debbie makes it way towards the state's north coast.

Power has been cut to several towns, large trees have been brought down and some homes have already lost their iron roofing as winds of up to 180km/hr are recorded. Locals on Hamilton Island have described the winds as "deafening".

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The cell is expected to make landfall at Bowen as a category 4 from Midday (Qld time) with the possibility of wind gusts reaching 260km/hr near the centre of the system. It'll be the worst cyclone to hit Queensland since Yasi six years ago.

The later landfall time is good news because it will no longer coincide with the high tide at about 9:40am and may reduce the size of the tidal surge Debbie will generate. Forecasters say Debbie has a wide, slow moving core and it could take hours to pass once it makes landfall, bringing a possible 500mm of rain with it.

Here's what Debbie looks like from space:

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QFES Deputy Commissioner Mark Roche has described the cell as a "battery ram" on any structure.

"We're just asking people to be sensible, stay safe at all costs," he said.

And Roche isn't ruling out the possibility of Debbie intensifying even further.

"It's not behaving in a way that we would normally see, it has changed courses, slowed right down, intensified to a cat 4 earlier than we expected so we can't rule out a cat 5."

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