Cyclone Debbie's destructive core tipped to rip ashore on Tuesday afternoon

Residents of Australia's northeast coast begin evacuating low-lying areas ahead of powerful cyclone.

Cyclone Debbie has been forming off the coast of Queensland state in recent days, the official Bureau of Meteorology said on Sunday, with its "very destructive core" expected to hit land early on Tuesday morning.

Debbie was now a category three cyclone but was expected to build to a four by the time it crosses land somewhere between Townsville and Proserpine, with wind gusts of up 280kmph near the centre, the meteorology bureau said.

As of 11 a.m. ET, Cyclone Debbie had maximum sustained winds of 175 kilometers per hour, or 108 miles per hour, with gusts to 155 kilometers per hour. But there are fears the storm could bring heavy crop damage, even if it is expected to miss the largest growing regions in the state's far north. Queensland produces some 95 percent of Australian bananas in addition to being a major producer of sugar, capsicum, tomatoes and rice. Join us in a conversation about world events, the newsgathering process or whatever aspect of the news universe you find interesting or important.

He said a two to three metre swell was expected along the northern coastline on Tuesday, which would be whipped up by the strong winds, as well as rainfall of about 200 millimetres across the region with some areas set to record up to 400 millimetres.

It was the most damaging tropical cyclone in Australian history, Henson said, causing $2.5 billion in damage.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said dozens of schools would be closed for the cyclone.

Some 30,000 people have been told to evacuate low lying areas most at risk from tidal surges and winds of up to 300km per hour (185mph).

She pleaded with locals to "listen to the expert advice" because the "window of opportunity to leave is drastically closing". "It is time to think very logically about your safety and the safety of your family". The eye of the storm was projected to pass over the Whitsunday Islands this morning. The government has not issued a formal evacuation order, but it's hoping Mackay residents will take action and seek higher ground before it's too late.

Whitsundays Regional Council Mayor Andrew Wilcox said: "in the Whitsundays we're pretty laid back sort of people".

"Don't wait till tomorrow because you will not will be able to move probably past midnight tonight", he said.

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