Cyclone Larry Devastates Australian Towns, Crops; Second Storm Approaches

Stephanie Peatling in Sydney
for National Geographic News
March 21, 2006

Northern Queensland, Australia (see map), which was battered by Cyclone Larry on Monday morning, is bracing for more wild weather later in the week.

A second tropical cyclone, Wati, has reached Category Two status and is slowly approaching the continent's northeastern coast.

Tropical cyclones, which are known as hurricanes when they form in the North Atlantic Ocean basin, are often ranked in intensity according to the Saffir-Simpson scale. (Read "'Category Five': How a Hurricane Yardstick Came to Be.")

Larry crossed the coast on Monday as a Category Five storm—the strongest on the intensity scale—with winds of up to 180 miles an hour (290 kilometers an hour). The tempest tore the roofs off buildings and left about 120,000 people without power.

About 30 people have been treated for minor injuries and a hundred are being housed in emergency accommodations.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology's Tropical Cyclone Warning Center has now downgraded Larry from a cyclone to a severe low-pressure system.

Strong winds are still whipping across the region, but the storm is expected to dissipate completely before it reaches the Northern Territory border.

Meanwhile Cyclone Wati has been steadily moving toward the Queensland coast, and an upper-level storm system moving into the region is complicating predictions of the cyclone's path.

According to a bulletin issued today by the Bureau of Meteorology, Wati could be captured by the system and move parallel to the coast, or it could linger over open water until the system weakens and then resume its track toward land.

Helping Hands

As officials monitor Wati's activities, hundreds of police and defense force personnel have been sent to northern Queensland to help with cleanup efforts.

Local disaster response teams are estimating the cleanup could take up to six weeks, but continued poor weather is hampering efforts to survey the damage.

Continued on Next Page >>


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