Queensland Urges Vigilance as Weakened Ita Still a Threat

Queensland’s premier urged residents to remain vigilant as a weakened Cyclone Ita moved across the Australian state’s north with winds of 120 kilometers (75 miles) an hour. No deaths or injuries have been reported.

Flood waters and fallen power lines still pose a threat to human life as the storm tracks south, said Campbell Newman, who cut short a trade trip to Asia due to the cyclone threat.

“I don’t want to count our chickens,” Newman said in an Australian Broadcast Corp. television interview today. “There are also banana crops that are going to be decimated or severely damaged, and those are people’s livelihoods as well. While there hasn’t been the catastrophic impact of a Category 5, there will be impacts and hurt to people’s lives.”

Now rated Category 1, Ita was 125 kilometers northwest of Cairns at 9 a.m. local time, moving south at 11 kilometers an hour, the Bureau of Meteorology said. Ita made landfall near Cape Flattery last night as a Category 4 storm.

Cyclones are rated from Category 1, the weakest, to 5 for a storm with winds surpassing 279 kilometers per hour. Ita was the strongest storm to hit the Queensland coast since 2011, when Yasi, a Category 5 cyclone, leveled sugar crops and swamped coal mines in a state already saturated by flooding, adding to a disaster bill of A$6.8 billion ($6.4 billion).

Encouraging Signs

Reports of the cyclone dissipating once it crossed land were encouraging and pleasing, Tom Gilmore, the mayor of Mareeba Shire Council, said in a phone interview today. Ita is forecast to pass near the inland community, where some roads have been closed with intense flood rains expected tonight.

“If you’ve ever sat through a major cyclone, you don’t want to,” Gilmore said. “They’re awful, awful things. A Category 1 cyclone will do damage to sugar crops and other things but we don’t expect there will be too much structural damage to buildings.”

Residents of Cooktown, which opened its shelter for about 300 people, were yesterday warned to evacuate homes built before 1985. About 700 people sought refuge in the shelter at Hope Vale, 46 kilometers northwest of Cooktown, Newman said.

About 5 percent of Australia’s sugar cane crop might be lost if the storm developed as expected, Commodity Weather Group LLC said before the cyclone hit. The best-case scenario would see crop losses of about 1 percent and the worst case 10 percent, it said. Australia is the world’s third-biggest sugar exporter, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Ports Closed

Ports in Cairns, Cooktown, Cape Flattery and Mourilyan were closed at 6 p.m yesterday, according to Ports North, which manages the facilities. It hasn’t provided an update today.

Abbot Point, the northernmost coal export terminal, was operating normally today after receiving a minor amount of rainfall last night, manager Glencore Xstrata Plc said in an e-mailed statement. The affected area is north of the main coal-producing area in Queensland, the biggest exporter of the steel-making variety.

Flooding was expected along the coast from Cape Flattery to Cape Tribulation as the storm drove the sea above normal high-tide levels, the bureau said today. Heavy rains may also cause flash flooding further inland.

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