North Queensland residents will learn at first light just how destructive Yasi has been after a terrifying night where the region was battered by the worst cyclone in living memory.
Yasi slammed into the coast near Mission Beach midway between Innisfail and the evacuated town of Cardwell, 1500km north of Brisbane, about midnight local time (1am AEDT).
Early reports suggest the communities of Mission Beach, nearby Tully, and Innisfail, 50km north of ground zero, are the worst hit.
But Yasi's fury has been felt hundreds of kilometres away, in Cairns to the north, and Townsville to the south, and all the places in between.
And Yasi, with its wind gusts of up to 290km/h, is far from done with north Queensland.
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At 2am, forecasters were still trying to get a handle on the scope of storm surges Yasi sent into coastal communities. Those to the south are at greatest risk.
The picture remains unclear at Cardwell, south of Mission Beach, where a storm surge of up to 7m beyond the high tide mark was expected.
At 3am, Cyclone Yasi was downgraded to a category four storm, but remains very dangerous.
The Bureau of Meteorology warns other inland towns are also in the firing line, with communities including Charters Towers, Hughenden and Julia Creek at risk of very strong winds, extending possibly as far west as Mt Isa tomorrow.
“All the way across the north of the state, through the course of today, will probably see some gale force winds and a few places as well the destructive winds,” Bureau of Meteorology Rick Threlfall said.
Tully, just inland from Mission Beach, appears to have suffered a devastating event, with locals describing scenes of widespread destruction.
Cassowary Coast councillor Ross Sorbello said the roof had been torn from his mother's house, where he was waiting out the storm, and other properties had suffered similar damage.
“We are talking about a pretty strong brick house that was built in the 70s, so god help us in the morning when we look at some of the older places,” he said. Mr Sorbello ventured outside briefly during the eye of the storm to assess the damage and said the streets were strewn with debris while power poles had been knocked over.
“It is just a scene of mass devastation,” he said. “(Cyclone) Larry was a boy compared to this.”
At Mission Beach itself, reports of the damage are scant.
Mother-of-two Nicky Smith, who took shelter with nine people in her powerless home, described the fury of the height of the storm.
“The house is just shaking at the moment,” she told The Courier-Mail.
“It's very noisy. It's like a train all around us.
“We can't see anything. We opened the door a while ago and could just see leaves and everything flying everywhere. It's so dark. That's the worst bit.”
Cane farmer Chris Holbrook, who bunkered down alone at his Mission Beach home, told of trees being snapped in half by the violent winds.
Mr Holbrook said he expected his cane farm at nearby Silkwood would be stripped, as it was when Cyclone Larry hit in 2006.
“All the trees have snapped off and broken,” he said. He can only imagine what his farm would look light when the sun comes up.
At Innisfail, which was devastated by Larry, there are reports of roofs torn from buildings, including a local pub.
Terrified evacuees holed up at an emergency shelter have told of the windows flexing under the violent winds and water flooding in under doors.
Ingham mayor Pino Giandomenico expects daylight to reveal “massive amounts of carnage”.
Mr Giandomenico said he was hunkering down in his home in the north Queensland town, but a look outside had given a hint of the scenes awaiting him at first light.
“We can see that there are houses without roofs and trees down all over the place but it's dark so we can't see much else,” he said.
“I would be very surprised if there isn't a lot of carnage out there, we just have to wait to the morning to see.
“I think the whole tropical coast will be a disaster zone.”
In Cairns and Townsville, vast swathes of both cities are without power, including evacuation centres, leaving residents to wait out the maelstrom in the dark.
Late last night, state disaster coordinator Ian Stewart said deaths were “very likely” as he detailed the plight of a group of six holed up in a Port Hinchinbrook unit complex, calling for help that simply could not be sent.
The fate of those people, aged in their 60s, is not known. All authorities could do was tell them to take shelter on the second floor of the building in an area where a storm surge was expected to reach at least the floor level of that second story.