Queensland remained on alert for flash floods and destructive winds Sunday as Tropical Cyclone Ita hugged the northern coast of Australia’s second-largest state.
Since making landfall above Cairns on the evening of April 11 as a Category 4 cyclone—the second-most intense on the rankings scale—Ita has ripped off roofs, cut power and closed ports. It weakened after crossing land and no serious injuries have been reported, prompting Cooktown Mayor Peter Scott to declare the town had escaped serious damage after being near the eye of the storm.
“We’ve been very, very lucky,” Scott said in a phone interview Sunday. “Some buildings have been damaged but in the main we’ve escaped with minimal problems. High water levels are still a problem. Electricity is gradually being put back on.”
More than 13,000 people spent Saturday night without power, Queensland Energy and Water Supply Minister Mark McArdle said in a statement. Crews attempting to reconnect electricity supplies were battling “heavy rains, localized flooding and continued Category 1 cyclonic wind gusts,” he said.
Ita has been the strongest storm to hit the Queensland coast since 2011, when Category 5 Cyclone Yasi leveled sugar crops and swamped coal mines, adding to a disaster bill of A$6.8 billion ($6.4 billion). Any damage to sugarcane, banana crops or mines from the current storm is expected to take days to assess.
Ports of Cooktown, Cairns, Cape Flattery and Mourilyan were all reopened by 7:30 a.m. Sunday, according to Ports North, which manages the facilities.