• Authorities warn the greatest threat from Cyclone Debbie comes from the ocean. (AAP)Source: AAP
About 25,000 people living in low-lying areas of Mackay are being urged to evacuate, with fears Cyclone Debbie will bring a devastating tidal surge to the region.
NITV Staff Writers

27 Mar 2017 - 6:00 PM  UPDATED 27 Mar 2017 - 6:00 PM

Debbie is expected to hit the coast as a Category 4 tropical cyclone just south of Bowen early tomorrow, ahead of high tide at 9.44am.

Police Commissioner Ian Stewart has told a briefing forecasters are predicting a storm surge ranging between 0.8 and 2.5 metres is possible for the Mackay area with 25,000 locals expected to be affected.

Douglas Walker told NITV News says the weather is worsening in Habana, about 20 minutes North of Mackay.

“There’s big gusts, like really heavy gusts of wind, a bit of heavy rain and sometimes it’s blowing sideways… it’ll die down for a few minutes before it kicks back up again.

“My family have about 7 acres up here, thankfully it’s up a big hill so we won’t get flooded. We’ve got massive gumtrees on the property though, and we’re worried about them coming down.”

Thousands on the move ahead of Cyclone Debbie
Cyclone Debbie is expected to cross the coast as a severe category four storm on Tuesday morning. At this stage, landfall is expected between 7am and 8am, but exactly where remains unclear.

Fortunately, Mr Walker's family is well-prepared.

“I knew the storm was coming to the region, so I did a big clean-up on the weekend. I didn’t realise it was coming straight for us until now, though so I’m glad I went around the yard and locked up everything in the shed.

“Mum made sure the fridge is stocked and we picked up some candles and some extra water too.  We don’t think it’ll be long until the power goes off. I’m at a friend’s place at the moment but I want to be with my family,” he said.

Mr Walker says the town has been frantic preparing for the worst – using every possible resource available.

“It’s all hands on deck battening down the hatches. I even heard they ran out of sandbags 2 hours ago and they’re using plastic bags from Woolies instead.”

Police Commissioner Ian Stewart has insisted people need to evacuate as soon as possible, or it may be too late.

"We are asking people that can move out of those low-lying areas that are depicted on the local maps on the council website to move now," he said.

"Don't wait until tomorrow because you will not be able to move probably past midnight tonight."

Mr Walker is worried people won’t be able to get out in time, due to current traffic conditions.

“I’m worried that if they try to evacuate Mackay, people won’t be able to get out of town fast enough. We don’t have an overpass here so the traffic is heavy with people flooding in and out of town gathering supplies,” he added.

Get out now: Qld Premier urges residents to evacuate as Debbie winds hit
Tropical cyclone Debbie is expected to build in intensity as it barrels towards Queensland's north coast, as communities prepare to bunker down.