More than 200 people are hunkered down in the Cooktown shelter in far north Queensland as Cyclone Ita moves towards the coast.
An 86-year-old woman who survived a cyclone in 1949 sits clutching a small weathered brown box as category five Cyclone Ita barrels towards Queensland’s far north.
“Right here is where I’ve got all my worldly goods,” Win Bass tells AAP, running her hands over her mother’s engagement ring at the Cooktown cyclone shelter.
“I was told not to worry about everything in my house because there’ll be nothing left.”
Mrs Bass is one of more than 200 people hunkered down in the shelter on Friday morning, as Ita hovers about 190 kilometres northeast of Cooktown.
She was in Rockhampton in March 1949 when a cyclone hit central Queensland.
“During that cyclone, the wind was just screaming,” Mrs Bass said.
Cooktown was also battered by a cyclone in early 1949.
Sixty-five years on, Mrs Bass is worried.
The life-long Queenslander moved to the town in 2006 for family reasons.
With potentially destructive winds of 300km/h predicted, she is concerned her older home won’t withstand the forces of nature.
“Let’s just hope and pray the cyclone doesn’t come our way,” she said.
Surrounded by her family and enough supplies to last a few days, Mrs Bass said sheltering from a cyclone wasn’t all bad.
“We don’t get to see a great deal of the kids these days, even though they live down the road, so it’s nice to spend time with them,” she said as her grandchildren aged four to 14 played nearby.
Numbers at the shelter had swelled on Friday morning and a steady flow of people carrying blankets, eskies, board games and bags of food continue to arrive.
Many sit glued to the television or their mobile phones checking storm updates, while others are more relaxed – doing crossword puzzles, reading and telling stories.
Residents in Cooktown are being urged to make their final preparations before Ita begins to unleash its fury in the early afternoon, when winds of more than 100km/h are expected.
Once gales reach that force, the local cyclone shelter will close its doors.
Outside, the streets are deserted and all the shops are shut.