The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) advises Severe Tropical Cyclone Debbie has recently strengthened into a category 3 system (Monday), and is expected to intensify further as it continues to move west-southwest towards the Queensland coast today.
The cyclone is forecast to make landfall as a severe tropical cyclone between Ayr and Cape Hillsborough, north of Mackay, on Tuesday morning.
Destructive winds potentially reaching 230km per hour and within a distance of 100km of the core are expected.
Port of Townsville (pictured) has advised it is now at Condition Red; with all personnel evacuated from the the port.
The facility went into Condition Orange over the weekend, meaning all commercial ships were sent to sea and there will be no further ship arrivals until further notice.
The ports of Mackay, Hay Point and Abbot Point also have been closed until further notice.
Mining sites prepared
The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection said it had contacted a number of priority mineral sites in north Queensland and that all had advised that they were prepared and cyclone ready
The department has also been advised that coal mines in central Queensland are prepared for the rainfall that may follow the cyclone.
Meanwhile Queensland Nickel Sales has assured the department that it is “cyclone ready” and Environment Minister Steven Miles said recent inspections confirmed there was good rainfall capacity in storages across the Yabulu refinery site north of Townsville.
“Generators and pumps are clear from inundation and excavators are on site should earthworks be required,” Mr Miles said.
“EHP tells me they are confident that the tailing storage facility (TSF) at the refinery has sufficient storage capacity to handle the heavy rain associated with Tropical Cyclone Debbie.”
A BHP Billiton spokesman said preparations were under way to ensure its mining operations were ready to manage increased rainfall throughout the week.
“BHP Billiton Mitsui Coal (BMC) South Walker Creek Mine is close to the official warning zone and subsequently operations will be temporarily suspended from end of day shift Monday 27th of March until the storm threat has passed,” he said.
Ergon calls in extra resources
Ergon Energy is finalising its preparations, with crews on standby, equipment and generators ready.
“There are 800 resources – Ergon, Energex and contractors in position, mobilising or available to respond to this event while Energex crews and trucks left Brisbane this morning for north Queensland,” Energy Queensland chief executive officer David Smales said.
“Response crews from across far north, north and central Queensland have prepared vehicles and equipment while final checks of major substations and electrical infrastructure have been made.”
He said Ergon was well-positioned to restore power as quickly as possible after Tropical Cyclone Debbie makes landfall.
Mr Smales said regional Queenslanders are good at working together to keep each other safe in cyclonic events and added: “They should call Ergon on 13 22 96 to report emergency situations or if people have information that can assist with Ergon’s restoration effort.”
Ergon Energy will keep customers informed of the progress towards power restoration through the Storm Centre on its website, on its Facebook page and via the Outage Finder available at https://www.ergon.com.au/network/outages-and-disruptions/power-interruptions/outage-finder.
A cyclone tracking map is available here: http://www.bom.gov.au/products/IDQ65002.shtml