Residents in the path of Cyclone Debbie could be waiting until Wednesday for emergency help, as the destructive slow-moving storm keeps the region in lockdown for hours.
Northern region SES manager Dale Camp said strong winds are expected to continue into the evening.
The high-level category four system is not expected to weaken to a tropical low until midday on Wednesday.
“It’s a very slow-moving cyclone, so we’re talking anywhere between six and 14 hours until it’s completely over in each location,” he said.
“So that puts it well into this evening, and that’s the problem, everyone is going to have to stay in their house all day, and then stay there all night as well.
Mr Camp said poor light in the evening will hamper any clean-up efforts.
“We have to wait for that wind to die down before we move around, and if it’s at night time it makes it very difficult to see things like floodwaters, so they’ll probably be waiting until first light tomorrow,” he said.
Debbie had moved as slow as 4km/h in heading to the north Queensland coast on Tuesday morning but quickened to 12km/h as the eyewall made landfall near Airlie Beach just after midday.
Whitsundays councillor John Collins said Cyclone Debbie was one of the slowest he had experienced.
“I’ve been through a few cyclones that are quick and nasty but this one is going to go all day,” he told AAP.
“It’s a long wait, sitting here waiting while it tears everything up.
“This is going to be a terrible disaster when it is all over and done with.”
People needing assistance from the SES after the cyclone should call 132 500, and jobs will be prioritised in order of importance.
People with life threatening emergencies should call triple-zero.