‘Stay safe’: Bureau of Meteorology staff evacuated and businesses close as Queensland braces for Cyclone Jasper | Queensland #Stay #safe #Bureau #Meteorology #staff #evacuated #businesses #close #Queensland #braces #Cyclone #Jasper #Queensland

Weather station staff on Willis Island have been evacuated and businesses have shut their doors as Queensland prepares to face Tropical Cyclone Jasper.

Four Bureau of Meteorology personnel had to be taken to safety by HMAS Brisbane, a Royal Australian Navy guided missile destroyer, ahead of the incoming cyclone. They were located at a weather station on Willis Island – a remote, small and exposed sand island off the Queensland coast, that lies “directly in the path of approaching severe Tropical Cyclone Jasper,” according to a defence spokesperson.

The emergency evacuation commenced early Saturday morning, when an MH-60R Seahawk helicopter conducted four sorties to transport the personnel. The operation was conducted during heavy seas, with waves of three metres and winds at 46 km/h, before bureau personnel disembarked in Sydney.

Paronella Park is among a string of Queensland businesses closing as Jasper approaches northern parts of the state this week.

“At the moment, it is an hour-by-hour situation,” park co-owner Judy Evans said.

“We have no idea what is going to happen, but we have to keep our staff and our guests safe.”

The park will be closed from 5pm Tuesday to 9am Friday. Evans has held fort at the heritage-listed tourist attraction south of Cairns through two cyclones, in 2011 and 2016.

“We know the sorts of things that will happen … and it’s just a lot safer if we do not have people here, because we know we have rainforest, and we have a lot of items.”

“If we are here, in storms and heavy rains, then our guests are going to be put in danger.”

The category one cyclone, named Jasper, is expected to bring gale-force winds across Cooktown to Townsville, including Cairns, Innisfail, Palm Island and Wujal Wujal on Tuesday. Areas between Cape Melville and Cooktown, extending inland to Palmerville and Hope Vale, are on tropical cyclone watch, with the Bureau of Meteorology anticipating the impact to be felt by Wednesday.

Jasper may intensify as it travels towards the coast overnight, with the Bureau of Meteorology expecting it to upgrade to category two on Wednesday.

It coincides with the start of school summer holidays – when the coastal region receives an influx of tourists.

“We know that over these holiday periods, we have a lot of the community on campgrounds, on beaches,” the deputy police commissioner, Shane Chelepy, said. He urged people reconsider travelling “until we see the area safe”.

“It is a bit sad for Cairns, Port Douglas and everything,” Evans said.

Fitzroy Island Resort will also close its doors to guests until Friday, as “a precautionary measure”, according to a statement.

“All guests with existing reservations for the affected dates will be contacted directly by our team … The safety and wellbeing of our guests and staff is our top priority.”

James Cook University has closed its Cairns city and CBD campuses for Tuesday and Wednesday, and shipping company Sea Swift will close its Cairns depot until it is safe to reopen, while smaller businesses such as medical centres and yoghurt shops have closed ahead of Wednesday’s forecast.

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“Stay safe, Cairns,” Sea Swift said in a statement.

“There are impacts from cyclones before and after the cyclone crosses,” a bureau spokesperson said in a press address on Monday. “We have already seen some stronger winds over the last few days.”

“Rainfall and flooding is also a very big hazard.”

Catchments in the north of the state are under flood watch, “to prepare communities for the potential riverine flooding that we can expect with this tropical cyclone”, the spokesperson said.

“There is also a risk of flash flooding.”

A storm is also expected across low-lying areas, bringing the potential of a storm tide and flooding.

Queensland police have deployed 35 to 40 people in “vulnerable communities to support the local councils”, the police commissioner, Katarina Carroll, said. Additional police will be assisting at evacuation centres planned at the Douglas Shire and Cairns.

“Can I ask people not to panic, but please do listen to authorities,” Carroll said. “We do have a lot more people in the state, new people that have not experienced this before.”

“It’s school holidays, so we have people on beaches, a lot more people travelling as well, and there will be a lot of rainfall in a short amount of time.

“Every time we have a flooding event, we have more fatalities on the road because people drive through flooded waters … and that should not be the case.”

The state disaster coordination centre, and local disaster coordination centres for affected areas, are also fully activated, Chelepy said.

“Please have your emergency kits prepared. Think now about your medication, additional water, food, what you will need for at least 72 hours in your households.”


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