Cyclone Debbie’s trail of destruction became clear as dawn broke on the Australian East Coast on March 29.
Queensland State Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the worst-hit areas were the tourist magnet of the Whitsunday Islands, and Airlie Beach and Proserpine on the mainland some 560 miles (901 kilometers) northwest of the Queensland capital, Brisbane.
The Australian army has headed in to assess significant structural damage to homes and public infrastructure.
The category 4 tropical cyclone hit the northeast Australian coast midday local time on Tuesday, March 28, cutting power to more than 51,000 homes and knocking out telephone services. Most remain without power.
The most destructive wind gusts of 160 mph (262 km/hr) were recorded on Hamilton Island, so it was expected to be hit hard, although its resorts were designed to withstand category 5 storms.
Debbie was gradually downgraded to a tropical low over Tuesday night.
Category 4 cyclones bring very destructive winds of up to 173 mph (279 km/hr)—one level below the most dangerous wind speed. Cyclones in category three to five all correspond to Beaufort 12 hurricanes.
Authorities had urged thousands of people in threatened areas to flee their homes on Monday, March 27. It was the biggest evacuation seen in Australia since Cyclone Tracy devastated the northern city of Darwin on Christmas Day, 1974.