(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)
The storm continued to intensify as it approached landfall, becoming a Category 3 cyclone, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. It’s expected to make landfall near the town of Ayr late Tuesday morning, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.
Cyclone Debbie is forecast to pack gusts of up to 150 mph (240 kph),
as well as flash flooding and storm surges as high as four meters.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said that 3,500 residents had already been evacuated.
An additional 2,000 people have been ordered to evacuate in the Bowen area, as the cyclone has tracked farther south than originally predicted, she added.
Officials predict cyclone will be ‘nasty’
Some residents are refusing to leave their home, Palaszczuk said, with police going door to door in a final attempt to get people to safety.
“This is going to be a nasty cyclone,” Palaszczuk told reporters on Monday morning.
“There is no time for complacency … the window of opportunity to leave is drastically closing,” she said. “I am just pleading to everyone, please, listen to authorities. This is about your safety, it is about the safety of your family and the safety of your children.”
Cyclone Debbie is the largest storm to hit Queensland since the Category 5 cyclone Yasi in 2011, which ripped homes from their foundations and destroyed farmland. Debbie could end up being as severe as Yasi, Palaszczuk warned.