SYDNEY (TIP): Two powerful cyclones smashed into northern Australia on February 20, with authorities ordering coastal residents to flee their homes amid warnings the storms’ violent winds and drenching rains could prove deadly.
The twin storms, dubbed the ”cyclone sandwich” by locals, struck early Friday, about 2,500 kilometers (1,500 miles) apart. Cyclone Lam hit a sparsely populated stretch of the Northern Territory, while the more powerful and potentially dangerous Cyclone Marcia began crossing over small coastal towns along the eastern coast of Queensland state a few hours later, packing wind gusts up to 285 kilometers (180 miles) an hour.
”Over the next few hours, many thousands of Queenslanders are going to go through a harrowing and terrifying experience,” Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said. ”This is a severe cyclone. I want everyone to take all the precautions that they possibly can take.”
About 30,000 people living in the Queensland town of Yeppoon and surrounding areas were expected to experience the worst of the storm.
More than 100 schools were closed and nearly 900 residents in low-lying areas were told to evacuate their homes.
No immediate damage had been reported, but officials pleaded with hardened Queensland residents _ no stranger to violent cyclones _ to take the storm seriously. A cyclone of similar strength, Yasi, hit the state in 2011, destroying scores of homes but causing no deaths.
”This is going to be a calamity, there’s absolutely no doubt about that,” Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said.
The Bureau of Meteorology warned that Marcia had a ”very destructive core,” had intensified rapidly and was likely to cause flooding.
In the Northern Territory, Cyclone Lam struck a remote stretch of coast, tearing up trees and downing power lines, but causing no major damage as it weakened and moved further inland. No injuries had been reported.