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Down Under: Giant Cyclone Heads Toward Australia

Source: Environment News Service

Posted on 01 Feb 2011

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The state of Queensland today is evacuating residents as a giant typhoon barrels across the Pacific straight for the Queensland coast. This comes on the heels of widespread flooding in eastern Australia.

According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, tropical Cyclone Yasi is likely to cross Queensland's tropical coast early Thursday morning. The potentially dangerous cyclone is exceptionally large in size.

The Bureau of Meteorology's Queensland Regional Director Jim Davidson, says the bureau is closely watching Tropical Cyclone Yasi and has issued a formal Cyclone Watch.

Rampaging across the southern Pacific Ocean, Tropical Cyclone Yasi easily spanned the distance between the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu on Sunday. The Vanuatu Meteorological Service says the cyclone is picking up strength as it veers away from the islands, travelling west towards Townsville in Australia.

At midnight on February 1 local time, the U.S. Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Center reported that Yasi was roughly 1,620 kilometers (875 nautical miles) east-northeast of Cairns on the Queensland coast.

Yasi was measured with maximum sustained winds of 90 knots (165 kph, 103 mph) and gusts up to 110 knots (205 kph, 126 mph).

The tropical coast is likely to begin feeling the first effects of Yasi on Wednesday morning, with damaging winds starting to impact coastal and island communities as the cyclone approaches.

Authorities are going from door-to-door in northern Queensland ordering people to leave their homes to escape a predicted two-meter (seven foot) storm surge.

Davidson said, "People in the affected area will start to experience gale force winds as early as Wednesday morning, so should be putting their cyclone plans into effect immediately."

Davidson said "TC Yasi is currently rated as a Category 3 cyclone and is expected to continue intensifying as it moves towards the coast over the warm waters of the Coral Sea."

"There is always uncertainty with any weather event but, at this stage, the various models we use to assist our decision making process are consistent in suggesting that TC Yasi will cross the coast somewhere between Innisfail and Proserpine early Thursday morning."