CATEGORY-FIVE Cyclone Ita has been likened in sheer destructive force to Typhoon Haiyan that last year wiped out parts of South East Asia killing thousands in the strongest wind speed ever recorded.
7am: Cooktown locals in far north Queensland are making an early morning dash to their service station as the town braces for its first major cyclone in 65 years.
Category 5 Cyclone Ita was 235km northeast of the town at 6am, as some 28 people spent the night in the local cyclone shelter.
Cooktown, north of the World Heritage-listed Daintree National Park, was last battered by a cyclone in February 1949.
Locals were rushing to the local service station for supplies as strong winds and heavy rain drenched the town of about 2300 people soon after daybreak.
It is understood Cooktown’s main store is closing its doors soon, while most homes in the area are either boarded up or have tape on the windows.
6am: Cyclone Ita has clocked 300km/h winds as it shapes to slam into the coast about 6pm today.
The category 5 cyclone is pushing a wall of water, with “phenomenal” seas in front of its 80km-wide core.
Winds up to 125km/h are expected to batter the far north Queensland coast by late morning.
At 6am, the cyclone was about 235 kilometre a north northeast of Cooktown, moving southwest at 11km/h.
Cyclone Ita is predicted to cross the coast between Cape Melville and Cooktown late afternoon.
Very destructive winds to 300km have been estimated at the core pushing a huge storm surge.
Cyclone warnings are current from Lockhart River to Innisfail, including Cooktown, Port Douglas and Cairns.
And the severe storm is expected to maintain intensity as it smashes the Queensland coast between Cape Melville and Cooktown later today.
A cyclone warning is current for coastal areas from Lockhart River to Innisfail and inland to Kalinga, Palmerville, Mareeba and Chillagoe.
A cyclone watch is current for coastal areas from Innisfail to Cardwell and inland.
5am: Cyclone Ita was 240km north northeast of Cooktown and 385km north of Cairns, moving southwest at 12 kilometres per hour.
The system near the core is churning winds around 300km/h and gales extending out to 200km from the centre.
Destructive winds with wind gusts in excess of 125km/h could develop between Cape Melville and Cooktown from late morning extending south to Cape Tribulation and possibly Port Douglas later in the day.
Dangerous storm tides, damaging waves, rising sea levels and strong currents are expected between Cape Melville and Cape Tribulation including Cooktown.
Sea level is likely to rise well above normal tides with flooding of low-lying areas extending some way inland.
12am: Premier Campbell Newman has warned if the colossal tropical cyclone tracks south today it could impact tens of thousands of people in Port Douglas, Mossman and Cairns with the threat of tsunami-like storm surge.
At 10:00pm, Ita was estimated 320km north northeast of Cooktown and 455 km north of Cairns and is projected to cross the coast about 5pm.
The powerful system is travelling southwest at abouty 15km per hour.
A warning has been issued for the coastal areas from Lockhart River to Innisfail.
Cooktown, Port Douglas and Cairns, Kalinga, Palmerville, Mareeba and Chillagoe are included in the threatened area.
Premier Campbell Newman toured Cooktown and Hope Vale as Cyclone Ita last night bore down on the far north Queensland frontier.