Severe tropical cyclone Ita made landfall today in northeast Australia along the Queensland coast, but weakened substantially as it came ashore.
The storm struck near Cape Flannery at around 10 p.m. local time according to reports, and winds gusted up to 99 mph as the eyewall moved overhead. But just 24 hours earlier, peak gusts were estimated up to 180 mph over the ocean.
Reports Jeff Masters of Weather Underground:
Ita appeared to be undergoing an eyewall replacement cycle at landfall, and was probably weaker than a Category 4 storm when it came ashore. Ita hit a portion of the coast that is relatively lightly populated, and damage should be nowhere near the $3.6 billion price tag of the last Category 4 cyclone to hit Queensland, Tropical Cyclone Yasi of February 2, 2011.
Despite the weakening, Andrew Freedman at Mashable describes some damage in Cooktown – just south of where the storm moved inland:
According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, or ABC, there were many reports of trees down and homes damaged in Cooktown as well as other areas closer to the storm center. About 30,000 people were evacuated from low-lying parts of Cairns in anticipation of storm surge flooding, ABC reported.
“It is roaring outside – it is becoming more and more constant and people lost a roof off their house in Helen Street – we just don’t know until tomorrow,” said Cook Shire mayor Peter Scott.
Although the storm has moved inland, and weakened to category 2 intensity (from a category 4 around or just prior to landfall), the Australia Bureau of Meteorology is still urging caution for residents in the storm’s path, from Cooktown to Cairns, where damaging winds (to 85 mph) and coastal flooding are likely.
Here are some impressive images of the storm, from space, before and after landfall:
Tropical Cyclone Ita downgraded to category 2 storm after making landfall near Cape Flattery, Queensland. Satellite: pic.twitter.com/vn8KMjBdmv— BuzzFeed Storm (@BuzzFeedStorm) April 11, 2014