WEATHER -- February 2, 2011 at 11:20 AM EDT
Cyclone Yasi Rips Through Australia's Northeast
A massive cyclone is tearing through the northeastern part of Australia Thursday (local time). Cyclone Yasi hit the Queensland state after midnight local time and is expected to batter dozens of cities in a region known as the tourism gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.
The storm's front was about 300 miles across, and the worst of the winds were expected to lash the coast for up to four hours, the Associated Press reports. The cyclone has forced evacuations and is expected to maintain the intensity of a Category Five hurricane.
(And if you are wondering the difference between a cyclone, hurricane and typhoon, there is an answer here from NOAA. The terms are regionally-specific.)
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has a live blog with updates on the storm. According to a recent post: "Authorities say the full force of Cyclone Yasi may never be known because there are no gauges where the monster storm made landfall."
In the infrared image below from NASA, areas colored purple represent the storm's coldest cloud-top temperatures and areas of heaviest precipitation.