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Cyclone threat turns plans upside down

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Deborah Friend

THE THREAT of another cyclone has sent the region into a flurry, with visitors cancelling trips and locals cancelling Australia Day events, due to the potential bad weather.

At the time of going to print, on Tuesday, the latest advice from the Bureau of Meteorology was that the Tropical cyclone impacts were likely to begin for coastal and Island communities from Wednesday afternoon.

The watch zone runs from Cairns (not including Cairns itself) to St Lawrence, including Townsville, Mackay and the Whitsunday Islands.

At the time of writing, the slow moving tropical low had sustained winds near the centre of 65 kilometres per hour with wind gusts to 95 kilometres per hour and it was 800 kilometres east northeast of Townsville.

The tropical low has been developing slowly in the central Coral Sea and is expected to become a tropical cyclone overnight on Tuesday or early on Wednesday.

BOM said the system was ‘likely’ to cross the Queensland coast late Thursday, between Cardwell and Airlie Beach, as a Category 3 system.

Gales with damaging wind gusts to 120 km/h may develop about the Whitsunday Islands from Wednesday afternoon onwards. Heavy rainfall, which can lead to flash flooding, may develop about coastal areas.

Tourism Whitsundays CEO Rick Hamilton said preparations for the clyclone were well underway and the effects on bookings were already being felt.

“We’re seeing a repeat of the lead-up to TC Jasper, in December, there are people cancelling their trips and leaving early,” he said.

“This is putting further strain on local operators and businesses, who are also watching the advice of BOM closely, while operating where they can.

“It’s an unfortunate situation for the second time in a month and we are already working with Tourism and Events Queensland and the Department of Tourism on the recovery plans for our region.”

Whitsunday Regional Council has changed the plans for its Australia Day event, on Friday.

In a statement, a council spokeswoman said:

Due to the predicted inclement weather and the Bureau of Meteorology declaring our region in the Cyclone Watch Zone, the Australia Day event planned for the Bowen Foreshore, on January 26, has been moved to the Bowen State High School’s McKenna Hall.

The Citizenship Ceremony and Australia Day Awards will be held indoors, and priority seating will be given to the new citizens, award nominees and their families.

We will keep all new citizens and award nominees informed by email and a final decision will be made by noon, on Wednesday (January 24), if the event needs to be cancelled and rescheduled to an awards ceremony only.

Meanwhile, the next Leg of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race has been postponed, with the Clipper fleet currently still moored in Coral Sea Marina, Airlie Beach.

The yachts were due to depart on Monday but were delayed due to the incoming cyclone.

And the Whitsunday Sailing Club’s annual Open Day, which takes place every Australia Day, is also in doubt, as are many other events.

For up-to-date information on events, consult organisations’ Facebook pages.

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