Ului threat passes leaving flood fears
CYCLONE Ului had vented much of its fury before striking the north Queensland coast, yet still packed enough punch to rip roofs off scores of homes, drive boats ashore and cut power to thousands of properties
Ului, packing winds of up to 200 kilometres an hour, slammed into the Whitsundays - where it sucked air conditioners out of walls - and then stormed across the nearby coast at Airlie Beach around 1.30am (AEST) on Sunday.
Miraculously there have been no reports of injuries although the State Emergency Service (SES) has received more than 750 calls for help.
About a dozen boats moored at the Whitsundays Sailing Club in Airlie Beach were dumped onto rocks and at least six homes lost their roofs in the Proserpine area.
Lucky Proserpine resident Clarence Van Der Wolf said he was relaxing in front of his television when he began hearing "strange noises".
"It started blowing and blowing and I heard this noise rumble rumble rumble, bump bump bump, it was the roof coming off and I said 'we've got to get out, I didn't know if the whole place was going to come down," he told AAP.
He and his wife Irma took refuge underneath the high-set house before scrambling to safety.
Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said it appeared that the region had escaped catastrophic damage.
"Early indications show this has been a significant event, we're seeing moderate and very severe damage in some pockets," she told reporters in Brisbane before setting off on a tour of the affected region.
"Most of what we've been hearing is from major population centres - Proserpine and Mackay - so damage to some of the more remote islands, damage to rural properties is still unknown."
Ms Bligh said some island residents had a pretty hairy time overnight.
"Some of the islands have seen air conditioners sucked out of the walls. That's the force of the wind that came through, so I think they've had a pretty scary night."
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Disaster relief funding
Ms Bligh and Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts arrived in Proserpine on Sunday afternoon.
They enacted disaster relief funding, with $170 now available per person or up to $780 per family, to be used for emergency accommodation and food.
Meanwhile, helicopters are checking the condition of power lines with 55,000 homes and businesses without power.
The focus now is on the flood risk from heavy rain associated with the cyclone.
The Pioneer River is expected to bring only minor flooding to Mackay on Sunday afternoon, despite falls of up to 452mm in the region in 24 hours.
"There's major flooding around Finch Hatton on Cattle Creek," said Ian Rocca at the Bureau of Meteorology flood warning centre.
"The floodwaters will reach Mackay during Sunday afternoon but they're not expected to exceed minor flood level."
There's also a flood warning out for coastal rivers and streams between Bowen and Yeppoon - on the coast near Rockhampton - the Connors and Isaac rivers and their tributaries.
Emergency crews are being sent from Cairns and were due to arrive later on Sunday.
Ului has been downgraded to a rain depression and is hovering over mining towns west of Proserpine, it is expected to cross into the Northern Territory late on Monday.
THE Bureau of Meteorology cancelled the cyclone warning in far north Queensland as Ex-Tropical Cyclone Ului moved inland.
The storm was downgraded to below cyclone strength in the Bureau's Tropical Cyclone Advice issued at 8.34am on Sunday.
At 4pm on Sunday EST Ex-Tropical Cyclone Ului, was located about 150 km east south-east of Hughenden and moving west south-west at 20 kilometres per hour.
Heavy rain leading to flash flooding associated with the system is likely to continue in coastal and adjacent inland areas between Bowen and St. Lawrence.
55,000 homes still without power
Helicopters were checking the condition of power lines in north Queensland as 55,000 homes and businesses lost power, Ergon Energy says.
Cyclone Ului caused extensive damage to power infrastructure when it crossed the coast near Airlie Beach.
The area from Bowen to Proserpine, Mackay, parts of the Whitsundays Islands and west to Collinsville suffered damage to power infrastructure.
Ergon spokesman John Fowler said once a damage assessment had been made the company would know what resources to direct towards repairs.
In the meantime, extra crews were being called in from surrounding districts to assist the restoration of power, Mr Fowler said.
"The early indications are we believe the network in Bowen and Collinsville is not that bad," Mr Fowler said.
"The damage in Mackay we think at this stage is a little bit more severe."
Mr Fowler said for reasons of public safety large substations were checked first, then power lines in the streets and finally power connections to homes and businesses.
The helicopters would report damage back to Ergon so a restoration plan could be established.
Tourism takes a hit
Tourism Whitsundays chief executive Peter O'Reilly says the physical damage appears to have been relatively minor in Airlie Beach, where he's based.
He said tourism operators had still taken a hit, with island resorts evacuated, tourists leaving and bookings cancelled.
But he was hopeful things will quickly return to normal, and said bustling Easter trade would be a boost.
"I think we've probably come out of it pretty well and I don't think the clean up will take long," he said.
"But there's certainly been an economic impact. We've had lots of people leaving, and a lot of bookings cancelled and that really does hurt the town."
He said Airlie Beach would be back to normal by next weekend, but it could be a few weeks until it was business as usual in the region.
"We're looking forward to Easter, which will be a bit of a shot in the arm for us."
Premier Anna Bligh said her government would talk to affected businesses to see what help could be offered.
Mackay airport remains closed
The airport was closed after it entered Stage 5 of its Cyclone Plan yesterday.
All aerodrome facilities and runway services have been withdrawn and normal airport operations have ceased due to the strength of the winds associated with the cyclone.
Airport staff are currently recommissioning facilities, and inspections and any necessary repairs are expected to be carried out.
Mackay Airport will issue an advice once aerodrome facilities and runway services are recommissioned.
Clean up begins but flooding concerns remain
Mackay Regional Council Mayor Col Meng said SES, Council and Ergon Energy crews were working on the clean up of Mackay city.
"We are relieved that the cyclone has passed,” Cr Meng said.
"However we are concerned for flooding coming down from Mirani Weir throughout the afternoon and this evening.
"We are very fortunate to survive with only a few lost roofs and trees."
Cr Meng said that as of 8am this morning no one was injured from the destructive winds.
There is also problems with phone lines.
Worst flooding expected in the west
Forecaster Gordon Banks says Mackay and the Clarke Range to the west are expected to see the worst of any flooding.
"We are now starting to see some stream rises through that (Clarke Range) area, however all the gauges are showing that currently river levels are below minor flood levels," he said.
"However there is potential for them to rise further with heavy rainfall continuing."
He said some locations in the Clarke Range had seen falls of 250mm in 24 hours, while parts of Mackay had in excess of 100mm with much more rain to come.
"All those towns south of Airlie Beach down to St Lawrence and probably inland for maybe 150km will see heavy rain."
Mr Banks said the area affected by the cyclone was not badly affected by recent heavy rainfall that swamped other parts of the state.
But he said it had received regular rainfall so the ground was unlikely to soak up the cyclone's dumping.
"I think most of the rainfall falling at the moment will certainly turn into runoff," he said.
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