Evacuations on hold as Cyclone Hamish weakens

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LATEST: CYCLONE Hamish evacuations on the mainland have been put on hold amid predictions the weakening cyclone may not even cross the coast.

Bureau of Meterology state director Jim Davidson said there was now only a 5 per cent chance Cyclone Hamish would cross the coast.

He said it was expected that Hamish would be downgraded to a category three or even two by tomorrow morning, but they wouldn’t know for sure until Wednesday.

“We are hoping for the best, but still preparing,” Mr Davidson said.

Premier Anna Bligh said Hamish was now less of a threat, but it was important to remain cautious.

At 10am, Hamish was 225km northeast of Yeppoon and 310km north of Bundaberg, moving southeast at 14km/h but still poses a threat to exposed coastal and island communities between Yeppoon and Hervey Bay.

An emergency services spokeswoman said all evacuations had been put on hold until authorities had discussed the situation at a Disaster Management Group meeting.

The effect on southeast Queensland was now likely to be some periods of heavy rain.

Earlier, about 10,000 residents from a low-lying “danger zone” between Burrum Heads and River Heads had been told to get themselves ready to get out and bunker down with friends and family before local roads are cut.

 

Senior forecaster Ann Farrell from the Tropical Cyclone Warning Centre said Hamish was expected to continue on that south-easterly track and remain offshore. 

But there was still a threat of flooding in Hervey Bay as Hamish had raised sea levels, generating “large waves particularly on this morning’s high tide”. 

“We’re expecting the sea to come in above the high water mark, making it dangerous along the coastline.” 

Ms Farrell said Hamish was expected to continue on its south-easterly track and remain offshore. 

“It’s looking less likely to make that turn and come in shore,” she said. 

Ms Farrell said on current tracking, most areas should be spared the destructive winds and flooding rains associated with cyclones. 

“It’s more going to be the peripheral effects from the system, rather than the terrible impact of a severe tropical cyclone.’

“As it tracks past the coast offshore we will see some impacts between Yeppoon and Hervey Bay. 

“Even the distance it is from the coast, some islands have experienced 100km/h wind gusts overnight. If it shifted just a little bit closer to the coast, we could see that on the mainland.”

But tourists, campers and fishermen have fled Fraser Island en masse as a weakening but still power-packed Cyclone Hamish bears down.

Evacuations began yesterday and visitors were still leaving the island today as Hamish headed for the Great Sandy Cape, where it was expected to hover.

The Environmental Protection Agency has closed the Great Sandy National Park, including Fraser Island and the Inskip Pensinsula.

Campers have been told to leave and four-wheel drive access has been banned.

Many guests at the Kingfisher Bay and Eurong resorts also evacuated ahead of barge services being cancelled tomorrow.

“We’re still battening down the hatches,” a Kingfisher Bay Resort spokeswoman said.

“Some guests have evacuated but some have opted to stay and wait it out.”

Darren Maddicks, of Caboolture, was fishing on Fraser with three mates unaware they were in Hamish’s path.

“We were fishing all day on the calm side of the island yesterday and didn’t know a thing about the cyclone,” Mr Maddicks said.

“We wondered why we hadn’t seen a car all day. Then we got back to our rooms at Eurong, we found a note slipped under our door telling us about the evacuations.”

Mr Maddicks and his friends were told they had to leave by 10am yesterday or stay put.

“We thought we might be stuck here,” he said.

At Inskip Point, where barges take four-wheel drives across to Fraser Island, campers Robbie Irwin and Jeff Dennis were also evacuating amid steady rain and gusty winds.

They were despondently packing up after Hamish rudely cut short their annual three-week fishing trip.

”We would have stayed but we’d get fined if we did,” Mr Irwin said.

“It’s a bummer because it doesn’t look like the cyclone is even going to hit the coast. But I guess they have to take precautions.”

Rainbow Beach locals Darryl and Karen Winkler said they had seen much wilder weather in the past .

“It’s a bit of a non-event at the moment but it could get worse,” Mr Winkler said.

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