Cyclone roars toward Australia’s flooded north

Kristen Gelineau

SYDNEY – A strong tropical cyclone roared toward Australia’s flood-ravaged northeast on Monday, prompting evacuations and warnings from officials that the storm could be the worst the already-swamped region has ever seen.

Cyclone Yasi strengthened to a Category 3 on Monday with winds up to 115 mph (185 kph). It was expected to hit the Queensland state coast on Wednesday or Thursday as a fierce Category 4 storm with wind gusts up to 162 mph (260 kph). The storm could dump up to three feet (one meter) of rain on some communities already saturated from months of flooding, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said.

But Yasi is expected to strike somewhere along the state’s north coast, largely avoiding areas to the south — including Brisbane — that have suffered the worst of the recent flooding. Still, Bligh said the storm’s path could change and residents up and down the coast needed to be prepared.

“We couldn’t rule out further flooding in areas that have already experienced significant flooding in the last few weeks,” Bligh said.

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