Cyclone Nora’s effects are being felt much further afield than remote parts of Cape York, with heavy rain associated with the system causing flooding in some low lying parts of Cairns on Sunday afternoon.
- Cyclone Nora is currently a category one system
- Entire town of Pormpuraaw without power
- Premier says no injuries reported
Cars were swept up in floodwaters at a shopping centre in Earlville and shoppers waded ankle-deep in water at Rusty’s Markets in the CBD.
Cyclone Nora was downgraded to a tropical low on Sunday afternoon as it was tracking south of Kowanyama.
It had crossed the western coast of Cape York as a category three cyclone near Pormpuraaw on Saturday night.
A severe thunderstorm warning was issued for the Cairns and Port Douglas region by the Bureau of Meteorology on Sunday.
Mud and trees cover the road after a landslide on the Captain Cook Highway from Cairns to Port Douglas in Far North Queensland. (Supplied: Travis Gooch)
The Kuranda Range has been closed in both directions due to a rockslide, while landslips and fallen trees were causing delays on the Captain Cook Highway north of Cairns.
Council authorities urged all motorists across far north Queensland to slow down and drive to the current wet conditions.
Bureau forecaster Michael Knepp said the Cairns area had recorded about 120 millimetres in a few hours.
“It’s linked to Nora, but Nora’s still well to the west,” he said.
“But there is a trough that extends from Nora into the Cairns area, and that’s why they’re getting a fair bit of rainfall.
“There is a flood watch in between the Townsville and the Cape Tribulation area so there is potential for heavy rainfall, especially the coastline between Ingham and about Cooktown, over the next 36 hours.
“Once we get through that 36 hours, we’ll see that showers and rainfall quite rapidly decrease as cyclone Nora moves further west, and by later this week we’re looking at pretty much fine conditions.”
The State Emergency Service (SES) said it had carried out 85 jobs in the Cairns and Port Douglas area since this morning.
Pormpuraaw without power
Ergon Energy said all 230 of its customers in the town of Pormpuraaw had lost power, along with 30 properties in Mapoon on the northern tip of Cape York.
Nora brought down trees and power lines across Pormpuraaw, where the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) urged people to stay away from fallen electrical cables.
“We can assure customers there that we will get crews in as soon as it’s safe to do so,” Emma Oliveri from Ergon Energy said.
“Because of flooding in some of these communities … we’re heavily reliant on aircraft to get our crews in.
“We need to establish that it’s safe to fly and safe to land at the local airstrip. I can’t give you a time frame.”
Massive damage to power lines in Pormpuraaw could pose a danger to residents, authorities warned. (Supplied: QPS/Ergon Energy)
Liam Hartley, who has been working as a contractor in Pormpuraaw, said trees were down all over town.
“[It] got a bit hectic about midnight when we got the brunt of it,” he said.
“We went to sleep about two o’clock when it started to die down.
“A lot of the roads are blocked by trees and a lot of power lines down, so it’ll be a while before they’re back on their feet.
“We’ll probably stick around and see if the council needs any help cleaning up.”
The Pormpur Paanth Aboriginal Corporation in Pormpuraaw said residents were safe so far, but a spokesperson said there had been “more damage to building and trees than predicted”.
“If people would like to offer donations such as water, canned food, [they] can send to us via Hinterland or Skytrans, attention to Pormpur Paanthu Aboriginal Corporation. We are happy to distribute to community members,” the spokesperson said.
Queensland Health said there did not appear to have been any significant structural damage to health centres in Pormpuraaw or Kowanyama.
Both clinics will reopen tomorrow as normal and 21 people with health issues who were evacuated to Cairns will be returned to their communities later this week.
Community praised for being prepared
QFES Commissioner Katarina Carroll said authorities had started assessing the damage.
The satellite dish for Pormpuraaw’s local radio station fell victim to Nora. (Supplied: Pormpur Paanth Aboriginal Corporation)
“There is certainly power outages, power lines down and a lot of vegetation on the ground in Pormpuraaw.
“Less so in Kowanyama … we’ve done something like 60 assessments and there is minor damage to about five dwellings and five pieces of infrastructure.”
Kowanyama resident Kenny Hewson said he counted himself lucky.
“Sunny Kowanyama this morning, we got through the night pretty much unscathed, just a few branches down, that sort of thing,” he said.
Kowanyama Mayor Michael Yam said he was proud of residents who did the right thing.
“They knew what to do and the community all pulled together seeking shelter in brick houses,” he said.
“I am pretty happy how they all come together so quickly.”
He said he was not aware of any significant damage.
“I think everything at the moment is all pretty good and fine.”
He said council officers would head out to assess the damage when it was safe to do so.
“Still very windy and I think we’re still getting the tail end of it, but I will have more of an idea of the damage when I talk to my other counterparts.”
No injuries reported: Premier
BOM forecaster Jonty Hall said the Kowanyama airport recorded winds of up to 100kph the town had recorded 128mm of rain in the 24 hours to 9:00am Sunday.
@AnnastaciaMP: Four schools will be closed tomorrow: Pormpuraaw, Kowanyama, Karumba, Burketown #TCNora
“So it’s going to be a day, day-and-a-half, it’s just going to be sitting in almost the same spot producing pretty heavy rain fall throughout that area … so the total accumulation for the whole event for some places down there may be between 500 to 700mm,” he said.
At an emergency services briefing on Sunday morning, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she was thankful there had been no injuries reported.
“Overnight we were concerned about a vessel as well that had headed north … we’ve been able to make contact with that vessel and the people on board that vessel are safe and well,” she said.
“Over the next few days we will move into recovery and I’m pleased to report that I’ve appointed Brendan Moon as the recovery coordinator.”
Ms Palaszczuk pledged support for the towns affected.
“Although these communities are some of the most remote in Queensland, the families are not alone.
“We’ll be looking at sending energy crews into Pormpuraaw as soon as possible.”
The destructive core of Tropical Cyclone Nora was south of Kowanyama just before 6:00am on Sunday. (Supplied: BOM)