Cyclone Ita is seen approaching the far north Queensland
coast of Australia, in this NOAA satellite image taken by
JMA/MTSAT yesterday evening. REUTERS/NOAA
Cyclone Ita has been upgraded to a category five storm
and its winds are shortly expected to begin lashing the north
Winds of 100kmh could hit the region as early as this
morning, with the worst cyclone since Yasi expected to hit
somewhere between Cape Melville and Cape Tribulation tonight.
"It's coming in faster and bigger than we first thought it
was going to," Cook Shire Mayor Peter Scott said while
boarding up windows of his family home on Thursday.
Ita was 285km off the mainland on Thursday night and the
weather bureau says it poses a "significant threat" to far
It's expected to bring gales up to 280 km/h, heavy rain and
storm surges when it hits the coast, with 9000 people
directly in its path.
A cyclone warning is place from Lockhart River to Innisfail,
extending hundreds of kilometres inland, and a cyclone watch
alert is current from Innisfail to Cardwell.
Locals and tourists spent Thursday night in the Cooktown
cyclone shelter, which opened about 12 hours earlier after
the storm was upgraded.
"I've heard it's going to intensify and it's going to get
really scary," Dottie Bostoch told AAP as she made her
makeshift bed in the Cooktown shelter on Thursday night.
Ms Bostoch, 77, who took her dog Leo along to the shelter,
said she feared her house would cave in when the potentially
destructive winds hit.
Bruce Jenkins, 68, also spent the night at the centre with
his cat Busta.
"I get all jittery when there's a cyclone and so does my
cat," he said.
Others in Cooktown spent Thursday boarding up their homes,
clearing yards and stocking up on supplies.
The weather bureau says while Ita was intense, it's a smaller
system and would move slower than category five Cyclone Yasi
in 2011 and category four Cyclone Larry in 2006.