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Cyclone Ita approaches Far North Queensland

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman warns residents of Far North Queensland to prepare for 300km/h winds, heavy rain, 1.5-metre storm surges and power outages for up to four weeks as Cyclone Ita approaches. Nine News.

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As far as wedding anniversaries go, Penny Johnson’s is likely to be memorable.

The Cook Shire Deputy Mayor was supposed to be heading near Toowoomba to celebrate her and husband Greg’s 18th anniversary on Friday.

The walls will be fine. The roofs may be a different matter 

With Greg hundreds of kilometres away, she’ll either be holed up in her house seven kilometres south of Cooktown, or enjoying an anniversary dinner with the masses in the town’s cyclone shelter.

Cyclone Ita now a Category 5 storm.

Cyclone Ita now a Category 5 storm. Photo: NOAA, via Reuters

Cooktown hasn’t been hit by a cyclone for more than 60 years, but Cr Johnson said the town’s population was worried about the damage Cyclone Ita could cause.

“The last cyclone that affected Cooktown was in 1949 and that had a huge impact,” she said.

“So I guess there’s not a lot of people here now who were around at that time. But there are people that have moved to Cooktown that have come from other areas that have gone through similar events, so they’ve shared their stories.”

Channel Nine footage of the Cooktown region as it prepares for Cyclone Ita.

Channel Nine footage of the Cooktown region as it prepares for Cyclone Ita. Photo: Channel Nine

According to old news reports, 90 of the town’s 120 buildings were destroyed or badly damaged by the 1949 cyclone, leaving 300 people homeless.

Cr Johnson was confident the town was well prepared on this occasion, saying residents had been packing emergency first aid items, medication and food into plastic tubs. They had also been securing boats, vehicles and loose items in their yards.

“We’ve had a lot of contact from people who went through Cyclone Yasi and other events, offering their support and some of their insights, and that certainly has helped form our disaster management plan at the Cook Shire level.”

Channel Nine footage of Port Douglas as it prepares for Cyclone Ita.

Channel Nine footage of Port Douglas as it prepares for Cyclone Ita. Photo: Channel Nine

Cr Johnson said she hadn’t decided whether to evacuate her home, which was built with concrete walls.

“So the walls will be fine. The roofs may be a different matter, as roofs generally are,” she said.

Locals and tourists spent Thursday night in the Cooktown cyclone shelter, which opened after the storm was upgraded to a category 5.

Channel Nine footage of the Cooktown region as it prepares for Cyclone Ita.

Channel Nine footage of the Cooktown region as it prepares for Cyclone Ita. Photo: Channel Nine

‘‘I’ve heard it’s going to intensify and it’s going to get really scary,’’ Dottie Bostoch said as she made her makeshift bed in the Cooktown shelter on Thursday night.

Ms Bostoch, 77, who took her dog Leo along to the shelter, said she feared her house would cave in when the potentially destructive winds hit.

Bruce Jenkins, 68, also spent the night at the centre with his cat Busta.

Emergency services in Cooktown brace for Ita.

Emergency services in Cooktown brace for Ita. Photo: Ten News

‘‘I get all jittery when there’s a cyclone and so does my cat,’’ he said.

Meanwhile in Port Douglas, 70-year-old boatie John Nagan was planning a cyclone party.

‘‘We’ll get a couple of cartons of beer and a few bottles of white wine for the ladies,’’ he said on board his yacht, which he plans to tether to mangroves in a river.

Premier Campbell Newman talks with Cook Shire mayor Peter Scott in Cooktown, north Queensland.

Premier Campbell Newman talks with Cook Shire mayor Peter Scott in Cooktown, north Queensland. Photo: Nine News.

- with AAP