Cyclone Debbie hits Whitsunday Islands as a category 4, landfall coming at midday

Storm clouds gather in the town of Ayr in far north Queensland as Cyclone Debbie approaches. Photo: Peter Parks / AFP / Getty Images.

Cyclone Debbie is expected to make landfall near the town of Bowen in Far North Queensland around midday, local time.

The storm intensified as expected last night and is currently a category 4 storm with sustained winds of 175km/h and gusts of up to 250km/h. It has slowed down a little, however, reducing the storm surge risk for coastal areas.

This map from the Bureau of Meteorology shows the projected track and strength as at 6am AEST (7am AEDT):

Source: Bureau of Meteorology

The BOM said Debbie was moving towards the coast at around 9km/h and was forecast to make landfall between Ayr and Midge Point towards midday.

The tourist spots of Hamilton Island and Airlie Beach are right in the cyclone’s path. The eye of the storm was projected to pass over the Whitsunday Islands this morning. Police announced they could no longer attend to calls in the area as it was too dangerous.

Debbie has been described as the most severe cyclone since Yasi, which crossed the coast as a category 5 storm in 2011.

Disaster monitoring service Force 13 posted this video on YouTube showing Debbie captured by the International Space Station.

Another satellite image captured by the BOM shows the visible cloud formations this morning, with day breaking over Debbie’s western edge.

Image: Visible greyscale satellite image, satview.bom.gov.au

The BOM warned of dangerous storm surge and of huge dumps of rain to come inland as the storm moves over the coast:

Residents between Ayr and St Lawrence are specifically warned of the dangerous storm tide as the cyclone crosses the coast. The sea is likely to rise steadily up to a level which will be significantly above the normal tide, with damaging waves, strong currents and flooding of low-lying areas extending some way inland. People living in areas likely to be affected by this flooding should take measures to protect their property as much as possible and be prepared to follow instructions regarding evacuation of the area if advised to do so by the authorities.

Areas of heavy rain with the potential to cause severe flash flooding have developed around the Central Coast and Whitsundays district and are expected to spread to other parts of the northern and central Queensland coast and adjacent inland areas today. Widespread daily rainfall totals of 150 to 250 mm, with isolated event totals of 500 mm, are also likely to lead to major river flooding over a broad area this week…

The latest updates and warnings from the BOM can be found here.

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.