Australian Tropical Cyclones Weaken After Destructive Winds Hit Coast

By Ben Sharples | February 20, 2015

Two severe tropical cyclones that lashed Australia’s north and east coasts with destructive winds have been downgraded after hitting the mainland. No deaths or injuries have been reported in their wake.

Cyclone Marcia has weakened two categories after crossing the coast near Shoalwater Bay as a category 5, only the second storm of that intensity to make landfall in Queensland in more than 40 years, according to the Bureau of Meteorology. It’s moving south at 20 kilometers (12 miles) an hour with winds gusting to 170 kilometers an hour.

To the north, severe tropical cyclone Lam crossed the Northern Territory coast between Milingimbi and Elcho Island at 2 a.m. local time Friday as a category 4 system, the bureau said. It has since been downgraded to a category 1 storm, according to the bureau.

“This is a very significant event that is passing through Queensland,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said in a televised press conference on Friday. “Please do not venture out on the streets. Stay in your homes.”

Queensland was devastated by cyclone Yasi in 2011, a category 5 that leveled sugar crops and swamped coal mines, adding to a natural disaster bill of A$6.8 billion ($5.3 billion). Television images showed felled trees, damaged houses and footage of sheets of metal roofing flying through the air along a shopping street in Rockhampton, a town more than 600 kilometers northwest of the state capital Brisbane.

Cyclones are measured from 1 to 5, with 1 the weakest and 5 the strongest with winds surpassing 279 kilometers per hour.

Coal, LNG

Gladstone, an export harbor for coal and liquefied natural gas, along with the Bundaberg and Port Alma shipping terminals were closed and vessel movements restricted, Queensland police said Friday in a message posted to its Twitter account. Ships moved out to sea from Gladstone on Thursday as Marcia neared.

Rail services to the port on the Moura and Blackwater lines have been suspended, Aurizon Holdings Ltd. said in an e-mailed statement Friday. Liquefied natural gas projects on Curtis Island were closed and won’t reopen until conditions improve, Kevin Berg, general manager at Bechtel Gladstone, the contractor for the plants, said in an e-mail.

The island is the site of three projects operated by BG Group plc, Santos Ltd. and a ConocoPhillips and Origin Energy Ltd. venture. BG’s project started up late last year and the two others are still under construction.

Anglo American plc, with coal mines in Queensland, is monitoring developments and will take necessary precautions, Brisbane-based spokeswoman Jacqui Strambi said in an e-mail.

Flood Watch

Suncorp Group Ltd., an Australian insurer, is putting in place additional measures to help process claims from cyclone Marcia as quickly as possible, the Brisbane-based company said in a statement Friday.

Heavy rainfall is occurring about coastal and adjacent inland areas between Yeppoon and Double Island Point, and is expected to continue today and overnight as the cyclone moves south, the Bureau of Meteorology said. A flood watch is current for the area, it said.

Queensland has been hit by 29 severe cyclones since 1970 with an intensity of category 3 or more, the bureau said in an e-mailed statement today. Yasi and Marcia are the only category 5 storms to hit the state during that period.

–With assistance from David Stringer in Melbourne and James Paton and Michael Sin in Sydney.

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.