Fears Cyclone Debbie could flatten town
AUTHORITIES are concerned Cyclone Debbie may completely flatten several parts of Bowen when it makes landfall Tuesday morning.
Bowen hasn't faced a major cyclone since Cyclone Connie in 1959, which means many houses were built before the 1980s and don't meet cyclone standards.
Debbie is currently expected to make landfall as a Category 4 cyclone somewhere between Bowen and Ayr on Tuesday morning.
Experts believe many houses and beach huts around the Bowen region are vulnerable to being destroyed with powerful wind gusts of 240km/hr possible at the core of the cyclone.
Whitsunday Mayor Andrew Willcox said every precaution was being taken to safeguard the town.
"Everyone's pretty laid back in these coastal communities so we're trying to get them fired up to take this cyclone seriously," he said.
"A lot of people are taping and boarding up their property. It's been a few years since the last major cyclone hit Bowen directly. I'm hoping this one doesn't (wipe the town off the map)."
JCU Cyclone Testing Station research director Professor John Ginger said buildings in smaller coastal communities were vulnerable to being damaged.
"Houses built in the cyclonic regions of Queensland to improved building standards since the mid-1980s can be expected to withstand wind-loads forecast in TC Debbie (but) some older houses will be vulnerable to damage," he said.
"In 1989, (Category 3) Cyclone Aivu made landfall near Ayr/Home Hill and caused damage in the surrounding areas including Bowen. Houses in low-lying coastal regions especially to the south of the crossing, and are subjected to storm surge, will be vulnerable to significant damage."
Local farmers are also bracing for the worst with intense wind and rain expected to wreak havoc on their crops.
Queensland Farmers Federation president Stuart Armitage said flooding could still impact farmers further inland from the coast.
"Winds (from Cyclone Debbie) will lead to widespread crop damage as well as significant damage to farm infrastructure for other intensive industries such as nurseries and chickens.
"Farmers are bracing for the damaging winds and storm surges up and down the coast. The significant rain from the cyclone can also result in localised and extensive flooding. As the cyclone tracks south and inland farmers well outside the initial landfall region will be at risk of flooding."
The Bowen area accounts for more than 90 per cent of Australian tomatoes and more than 95 per cent of capsicum for consumption in September and October. The region's agricultural industry is worth around $450 million a year and produces a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, ranging from mangoes and bananas to sweet corn.
Cherry Emerick from the Bowen Gumlu Growers Association said the impact of Cyclone Debbie on local farmers could be quite severe.