Australia Braces Itself for a 'Monster'

Cyclone Debbie to hit Tuesday morning local time
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 27, 2017 12:31 PM CDT

(Newser) – It's no Little Debbie. Australia is bracing itself for Cyclone Debbie, which is set to make landfall along the coast in Queensland—that's the country's northeastern most state—after 7am local time Tuesday, reports the BBC. That area is 14 hours ahead of EDT, so US storm watchers should start paying attention after roughly 5pm EDT on Monday. Debbie is being hailed as "a monster," bringing with it winds of up to 170mph, and there's the potential for a double whammy. Here's why, plus more storm coverage:

  • The "storm tide" may be the biggest issue, according to New Zealand's Stuff. The BBC reports the cyclone may unfortunately sync up with high tide, which should peak at about 10.5 feet; the storm surge could tack on another 13.
  • With the risk of flooding so high, evacuations are underway, with 25,000 people who live in the coastal city of Mackay told to leave. "This is probably the largest evacuation we’ve ever had to do," Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says of Mackay, per news.com.au. (Some sources put the potential Mackay surge at closer to 8 feet.)

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  • Buzzfeed reports that other Aussies are reacting "in the most Aussie way possible," and cites one woman who baked a cake that reads "Be Kind Debbie" in icing. A Bowen resident tells the Australian he tried to bring a smile to his neighbors when he spray-painted the following on his fence: "Cyclone Debbie bring it on. Bowen is not a pussy town do your best you got."
  • As for how Debbie will have to do its best, Sky News reports projections have it downgrading to a Category 2 storm (that's winds of up to 110mph) around 8pm local time.
  • But things could get intense before then. The AP quotes Palaszczuk as saying the farming region has never experienced a storm stronger than Category 2, whose gusts top out at 102mph. Older homes won't be able to handle Category 4, she says.
  • Australia's ABC reports Debbie is projected to make landfall south of Bowen, and explains the Bowen area, which it describes as between Mackay and Townsville, is where the majority of Australia's winter vegetables are grown. Projected potential damage: $1 billion.
  • Debbie follows a relatively calm period: A record was set in January for the longest span (280 days, or a little more than 9 months) without a hurricane-strength tropical system (meaning maximum sustained winds of at least 74mph) in what Weather.com describes as "any of the three major Southern Hemisphere basins."
  • How is a cyclone different from a hurricane? It isn't, really, explained the BBC in 2015. The moniker is tied to where the storm originated. In the case of cyclones, the zones are the South Pacific and Indian Ocean.
(Read more Australia stories.)

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