Australian residents begin evacuating ahead of cyclone

Associated Press – March 26, 2017

TOWNSVILLE, Australia — Thousands of people began evacuating low-lying areas of Australia’s tropical northeast on Monday as a powerful cyclone bore down on the coast.

Cyclone Debbie was expected to cross the Queensland state coast along a sparsely populated 100-kilometer (60-mile) stretch between the towns of Ayr and Bowen early Tuesday, Australian Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Michael Paech said.

The cyclone was churning over the Pacific Ocean as a Category 3 storm on Monday, with wind gusts up to 165 kilometers per hour (100 mph). It was expected to intensify to a Category 4 storm with wind gusts up to 260 kph per hour (160 mph) when it crosses on to land, Paech said.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk urged people in the most vulnerable areas to evacuate on Monday before conditions deteriorate.