Ita hits but she loses strength crossing land
AS CYCLONE Ita slowly approached the Queensland coast in the past week, the fear of impending devastation was real.
But those fears proved largely unfounded yesterday, although the threat of widespread flooding remained.
Ita was a category five monster - more powerful than Yasi - and it had the far north Queensland community of Cooktown firmly in its sights.
More than 300 residents sought refuge in the Cooktown cyclone shelter, but in the end only a few properties were affected - including the now-roofless West Coast Hotel.
While the immediate devastation was avoided, Queensland was not entirely out of the woods.
Ita, which crossed the coast as a category four storm about 10pm on Friday near Cape Flattery, was a category one cyclone by yesterday afternoon.
Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Ken Kato said Ita was likely to have been downgraded to a tropical low late last night.
As of 3pm, Ita had moved south to within 85km of Cairns, which was experiencing heavy rain and howling wind.
The Bureau now predicts Ita will remain a category-one cyclone until tomorrow morning.
Premier Campbell Newman was forced to cancel a flight from Cairns to Cooktown. He is expected in the town today.
The Premier said while the far north of the state had escaped initial devastation, he still held concerns for communities further south as Ita continued its journey down the coast.
Mr Newman said despite the region seemingly being spared the widespread damage feared earlier in the week, far north Queensland was in the clear.
"The threat that still remains is that as it moves south, you'll have the flooding impacts on the tablelands and the coastal strip," he said.
"It will track down the coast, it's believed, as a tropical cyclone, category one, heading down all the way through to the Whitsundays and then it starts to head out into the ocean.
"What the weather bureau are telling us is that we can expect significant rainfall right down the coast. Falls of up to 300mm in locations can occur all the way down to Yeppoon near Rockhampton.
"That means we are going to see significant flooding of various coastal rivers and creek systems.
"It means that roads will be blocked and impassable for some hours and maybe even some days."
There were no deaths reported yesterday, but there was danger.
Queensland Fire and Emergency confirmed that two adults and three child ren had to be rescued from floodwaters 10km south of Cooktown.
Mr Newman urged people in cyclone-affected areas like Cairns to avoid non-essential travel.
"Let's not see this turn into an absolute tragedy with someone dying from trying to go through a creek crossing," he said.
Ergon Energy said at least 7000 customers were without power across far north Queensland and network crews would assess the damage "when it is safe to do so".