Cyclone Debbie: Here's everything you need to know about the "monster" storm.

Residents are hunkering down as Cyclone Debbie bears down on north-east Queensland this morning. Here’s everything you need to know about the worst tropical storm to hit Queensland in six years.

Where is she?

At 5am AEST (6am AEDT) on Tuesday the Bureau of Meteorology indicated Debbie was about 105km east northeast of Bowen. Hamilton and the Whitsunday Islands are already being lashed by big gusts and heavy rain. Mass power outages have been reported. At 6am AEST, the eye of the cyclone was hitting the Whitsunday Islands.

Where’s she heading?

Debbie is moving south-southwest at 9km/h towards the north Queensland coast with a forecast landfall between Ayr and Midge Point, near Bowen, around 1pm on Tuesday AEST.

Cyclone Debbie. (Image via Bureau of Meteorology.)

What's her status?

There are five categories of cyclone, rising in severity. Debbie is a category 4 with sustained winds near the centre of 175km/h and gusts up to 250km/h. A category 4 cyclone will result in significant roofing loss and structural damage with many caravans destroyed and blown away. There will also be dangerous airborne debris, widespread power failures. The strongest winds gust will be from 225 to 279km/h. Debbie is expected to make landfall late on Tuesday morning.

What are the dangers?

The cyclone could measure up to 100km across with wind gusts potentially up to 240km/h near the centre. Abnormally high tides up to 4m are expected along the coast between Proserpine and Mackay.

What's the advice?

Stay put, stay calm and wait for the all-clear. People in the path of Debbie should stay calm and remain in a secure shelter - above the expected water level - while the very destructive winds continue. Emergency services won't be able to respond until the all-clear has been given. Ensure there is plenty of protection around them, mattresses, rugs, pillows, and keep phone, radio, and torches close.

What are emergency services doing?

Around 2000 extra staff from a variety of agencies have been sent to the area already. About 600 hospital beds are available in the region. More than 800 staff from Energy Queensland are ready to help restore lost power. The army is on standby.

What will be affected?

Bowen produces 95 per cent of Australia's fresh capsicums and 90 per cent of Australia's tomatoes for consumption during September and October. Other commodities grown in the region include beans, corn, melons, mangoes and pumpkin.


What is a cyclone?

Tropical cyclones are intense low-pressure systems that form over warm ocean waters - when the sea-surface temperature is above 26.5C.

Cyclones produce gales, torrential rain and storm surges of varying intensity, depending on how low the storm's central pressure becomes. They can last for days, but usually dissipate when they move over land or cooler water.

The Australian cyclone season is from November 1 to April 30 each year. The northwestern coast of Western Australia, between Broome and Exmouth, is Australia's most cyclone-prone area.

Australia and cyclones.

Australia holds the record for the world's strongest non-tornado wind gust. That was 408km/h, when Severe Tropical Cyclone Olivia roared over Barrow Island, off the Pilbara coast in Western Australia, on April 10, 1996.

Severe tropical cyclone Tracy is probably the most infamous of Australia's cyclones.

At least 66 people died when Tracy, a category four storm, struck Darwin early on Christmas Day, 1974, virtually flattening the city with winds near the eye estimated at 260km/h.

Despite its intensity and incredible destructive power, Tracy was tiny. The World Meteorological Organisation recognises Tracy as the world's smallest tropical cyclone, with gale force winds extending only 50km/h from its eye.

Devastation caused by Cyclone Tracy. (Image via National Archives of Australia.)

Cyclone Mahina, which struck Bathurst Bay in far north Queensland on March 5, 1899, holds two records. It remains Australia's deadliest natural disaster, killing an estimated 410 people when it scuttled a sheltering pearling fleet.

It also holds the world record for the highest storm surge ever recorded. Debris from the surge was found 13 metres above sea level.

Cyclone Yasi, which struck the far north Queensland coast in February 2011, is one of the largest cyclones to hit Australia in recent years.

It was a category five storm, the most intense on the Australian cyclone scale, with a peak wind gust of 285km/h.

For updates and more information visit the Bureau of Meteorology's website

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