Shocking images have revealed the devastation at cyclone-battered Hamilton Island as authorities scramble to assist holiday-makers.
The island bore the brunt of the ex-tropical Cyclone Debbie and has sustained substantial structural damage.
One tourist on the island described the moment Debbie hit, saying it was like "bloody mayhem".
Mat Garner told the Whitsunday Times he and his family are still on lockdown in their holiday house on the northeastern corner of the island.
"The roar was so loud, wind was phenomenal, all the windows rattled and shook violently," he said.
"There are houses with roofs ripped off, glass panels smashed, guttering missing, trees uprooted, golf buggies shredded....
"I haven't got down the marina front yet and I have to go check my uncle's house next door once the winds go down a bit."
PREMIER SURVEYS DAMAGE
Queensland's premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is flying north into cyclone-ravaged areas where the devastating effects of Cyclone Debbie are becoming clearer with each passing hour.
Since dawn broke images of shattered homes, businesses and critical infrastructure have steadily emerged, and it's now certain the state faces a long and very expensive road to recovery.
And Debbie isn't done with the state just yet. The former slow-moving category four cyclone is now a rain depression that's already left rivers in cyclone-hit communities in flood.
Residents of the Gold and Sunshine Coasts and Brisbane can expect their brush with wild weather from Thursday evening.
By then the low pressure system will be over the populated southeast corner, and could cause flash flooding into Friday before it moves offshore, the Bureau of Meteorology has warned.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has flown to Townsville to meet with Brigadier Chris Field, who will lead efforts to help devastated home and business owners, and the battered tourism and agricultural sectors.
She'll head to the worst-hit communities in the north as soon as it's safe. They include Airlie Beach, Proserpine, and Bowen, where heartbreaking tales of personal loss are emerging.
Authorities say no one is known to have died, and just two people have been hurt. But they've warned that with more wild weather and likely flooding ahead, that could change if people try to cross flooded roads.
Before heading to Townsville, the premier urged people to stay off the roads as defence personnel and other emergency teams move in to assess structural damage and deliver supplies.
She warned some people could be without power for up to a week. On Wednesday morning, 63,000 households were going without.
The premier has warned of "huge" economic impacts for farmers in the cyclone zone, and of a body blow to tourism, with Debbie causing significant damage to Whitsunday Islands resorts.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said everything possible was being done to help cyclone victims.
Roads are cut around Bowen, Airlie Beach and Proserpine with isolated northern communities still out of contact.
More than 63,000 homes are without power.
The Clarke Range, west of Mackay, recorded 64mm of rain in the 24 hours to 9am. Many other nearby areas were hit with more than 200mm.
WHITSUNDAY ISLANDS: Hamilton Island, which bore the initial brunt of Cyclone Debbie, has substantial structural damage. About 200 holiday-makers and 100 staff on Daydream Island, which also suffered structural damage, are running low on water. Contact is yet to be made with Hayman Island. Two fisherman have been rescued after their boat ran aground on rocks on the western side of Whitsunday Island.
AIRLIE BEACH: Significant damage to homes, roofs lying in yards. The Shute Harbour Motel has been destroyed, with owner Dave McInerney taking shelter in one of the room's toilets overnight.
BOWEN: A 'war zone' with powerlines down according to Whitsunday Regional Council Mayor Andrew Wilcox. The road south to Proserpine is cut due to flooding.
COLLINSVILLE: Damage to buildings including a pub, which lost its roof.
PROSPERPINE: A man hit by a falling wall is in a stable condition. Significant structural damage.
CROPS: Mature cane crops, part of the region's $1 billion sugar industry, have been flattened but the full extent of the damage is not yet known.
DEBBIE BROKE HEARTS AND BUSINESSES
The aftermath of ex-tropical Cyclone Debbie is starting to sink in for north Queensland residents.
A shell-shocked Dave McInerney emerged from the rubble of his Shute Harbour Motel at daylight on Wednesday to survey the damage.
He spent most of Tuesday huddled in the toilet of one of the rooms with his caretaker Dave Thompson and dog Spotty.
Mr McInerney said it would take a while to get his head around what had happened.
"We could just hear really huge noises and that outside," he told AAP.
"You don't know what you're going to meet when you come out."
Mr McInerney's dad started the business about 50 years ago.
It was one of the first tourist spots to land in the area.
But Mr McInerney said the extent of the damage caused by the category four cyclone meant he would now likely walk away.
"It depends a lot on the insurance," he said.
"More than likely it'll be demolished and sold as a development site.
"These days it's really not worth rebuilding a small business like this."
Mr Thompson said the ferociousness of Cyclone Debbie was an "eye opener".
"I think I'll probably pack up and go now, that's enough," he told AAP.
"I've worked in the Gulf of Carpentaria and seen some pretty bad storms but this one took the cake."
The Airlie Beach resident of 18 years said he'd had a good run, but Cyclone Debbie had been too much.
"I was in room nine but the windows came in and that was it," he said.
"Lucky I moved when I did because the whole back of the building came off anyway.
"We just listened to it demolish around us."
WHITSUNDAY REGION IS PRIORITY
Great Barrier Reef islands popular with foreign tourists were among the worst hit.
Daydream Island Resort said it bore the brunt of the storm and sustained significant damage, including to its jetty and accommodation wings.
"Conditions were extreme with heavy rainfall and strong wind gusts causing damage to the resort and surrounds," the resort said in statement, adding that all guests had been accounted for.
As day broke, scenes of devastation began to emerge.
Pictures posted on social media showed a light plane flipped upside down, battered yachts washed ashore, power poles down and trees fallen on houses.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the priority was clearing roads into hard hit communities in the Whitsunday region, getting emergency supplies in, and restoring power and communication lines.
"We've already seen some significant structural damage ... a lot of structural damage across that Whitsunday region," she said.
Bad weather is expected to hit the southeast corner on Thursday and Friday, before the rain depression that was cyclone Debbie moves offshore. "If you do not have to be on the roads until Friday, please stay off the roads. It will be some dangerous conditions and I do want all Queenslanders to be safe," the premier said.
DEBBIE DEVASTATION A 'WAR ZONE'
As residents assess the damage caused by Debbie, reports have described the town of Bowen as a "war zone".
Whitsunday Regional Council Mayor Andrew Willcox was driving around Bowen early on Wednesday.
"It looks like a war zone," he told ABC television.
"I'm trying to make sure everyone is OK."
Meanwhile, two fishermen whose boat ran aground on rocks in the Whitsundays overnight in the midst of Cyclone Debbie have been found safe and well.
Police say the two men have been found and are on their way back to Shute Harbour on a police boat.
They became stranded near the western side of Whitsunday Island after Cyclone Debbie had swept through the region and the men were able to email family in NSW, who contacted police.
The ex-tropical cyclone was downgraded to a tropical low storm around 3am AEST and is moving at around 14km/h towards Mount Coolon.
More than 63,000 people remain without power, and isolated communities in the north are still out of contact and unable to call for help after the category four storm.
Mr Willcox said he didn't have to go far to see the damage cause by Debbie, which hit the area as a category four cyclone on Tuesday afternoon.
"My own roller door blew off yesterday. Trees are down ... I just had to do a bit of rally driving to get around the power pole that's down and there's wires down across the road about 100 yards from my house," he said.
The Whitsunday Regional Council area covers the coastal areas of Bowen, Airlie Beach, Hamilton Island and Prosperine.
It also reaches inland to Collinsville, a mining town that was hit overnight by Debbie, which had by then devolved into a category two cyclone.
"A pub in Collinsville lost their roof last night because the storm kept going inland last night," Mr Willcox said.
"They're going to need some help up there as well."
CANE GROWERS AWAKE TO FLATTENED CROPS
Cane growers in the path of Cyclone Debbie are emerging from their homes to a sea of flattened crops.
Farmer Bill Atkinson, who lives around 25km inland from Airlie Beach, described his property as looking like a "warzone", with roofs off sheds, trees down and the cane partially destroyed.
He said Wednesday morning would be his first opportunity to step outside to assess the damage, but the views from the window didn't look good.
"It's going to be sad. It hasn't done (the crop) any favours," he told AAP.
"The cane is bent over, the tops are cracked off." Mr Atkinson said he estimates the category four cyclone could have wiped out 35 per cent of the 20,000 tonne crop at a cost of more than $100,000 to his family. Mr Atkinson is one of 1000 cane growers in the area who are currently surveying the damage.
BABY BORN DURING DEBBIE'S DESTRUCTION
In the midst of Cyclone Debbie's path of destruction, a piece of good news has emerged: a baby girl has been born at a Whitsundays ambulance station. The girl was delivered at the Whitsunday Ambulance Station at Cannonvale, near Airlie Beach, at 4.20am on Wednesday after flooded roads prevented her parents from reaching a hospital.
Queensland Ambulance Service says both baby and mum are doing well. Ms Palaszczuk said the birth was a piece of good news in what has otherwise been a devastating situation.
She would not be drawn on whether the parents should consider calling the girl Debbie.
"Oh, that's up to them, but out of all of this adversity, to see some good news brings a smile to everyone's faces."
CALLS FOR HELP WILL 'CLIMB INTO THOUSANDS'
Meanwhile, authorities in north Queensland are dealing with more than 700 requests for help but expect that to rapidly climb into the thousands.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Deputy Commissioner Mike Wassing says there is significant structural damage in Airlie Beach and Proserpine, which bore the brunt of category 4 Cyclone Debbie's 260km/h winds on Tuesday.
Properties have also been damaged in the inland town of Collinsville, where Debbie swept past as a category 2.
Debbie is now a rain depression that will almost certainly cause flooding, including in the southeast corner and Brisbane on Thursday and Friday, Mr Wassing said on Wednesday.
The storm is not done with Queensland yet. It continues to dump vast amounts of rain in coastal and inland river catchments that are now beginning to flood.
From dawn, the Australian Defence Force will join emergency crews to begin accessing in the damage from Debbie's howling 260km/h category four winds in areas in that were eye of the storm.
They include Airlie Beach, Proserpine, and Bowen. The jewels in Queensland's tourism crown, Hamilton, Hayman and Daydream islands also copped a severe battering as Debbie swept through on Tuesday.
Thousands of claims are expected. Debbie has also caused structural damage in the town of Collinsville, inland from Airlie Beach, when it swept past at about midnight as a category two cyclone.
The tropical low storm is continuing to produce damaging wind gusts and heavy rain over inland central Queensland around Collinsville and Moranbah.
The Bureau of Meteorology has warned of the potential for flash flooding in Mackay, Sarina, Carmila, Yeppoon, Moranbah, Clermont, Emerald, Springsure and Rolleston.
And Debbie will continue to increase rainfall in NSW, a BoM spokeswoman said, with widespread rain expected to fall over the state's east on Thursday.
"Based on the current forecast movement of ex-TC Debbie and its interaction with the upper system, very heavy rainfall in northeastern NSW, increased coastal winds and large waves are expected for parts of northeastern NSW," she said.
Rivers swollen by Debbie's deluge are now beginning to flood, but it's not clear what threat this poses to adjacent communities.
There is a major flood warning in place for the Don River, which flows through Bowen.
A flood warning is also current for the Proserpine River.
The Pioneer River, which flows through Mackay, is also at risk of reaching major flood levels.
EXPECT VAST DAMAGE: PREMIER
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk expects there will be a vast amount of damage and that advance inspection teams may find injured people.
"We do not know the impact this cyclone has had on those regional populations," she said on Tuesday night.
"We have a lot of old homes in these areas and we do not know if they've been able to sustain the huge battering."
A small number of rapid damage assessments carried out before sunset Tuesday in the hard hit communities of Airlie Beach and Proserpine offered some sense of the damage that will unfold as crews go from street to street inspecting homes and businesses on Wednesday morning.
Of the 19 assessments done in those two towns late on Tuesday, nine reported severe structural damage, six moderate and four minor.
More than a thousand emergency services and Defence personnel are ready to support recovery efforts in Queensland today, Prime Minister Turnbull said this morning.
Australian Defence Force engagement for cyclone Debbie was the most elaborate and comprehensive it has ever been, Mr Turnbull said.
"Nature has flung her worst at the people of North Queensland and it's now our job to make sure that every agency pulls together, and indeed the private sector, particularly the banks and insurance companies pull together, to provide support for the people of North Queensland who have had a very tough day and night in this," he said.
"There will be a lot of damage ... particularly to older buildings, older homes in particular.
"A lot of damage done now to recover, to clean up, to restore power, to make power lines safe.
"Above all the important message is to stay safe and follow the advice of the authorities."
Mr Turnbull reiterated his message to stay safe and be particularly wary of flood waters until after the storm has passed.
"If it's flooded, forget it," he said.
"Don't walk through, drive through, let alone try to swim through flood waters."
Opposition leader Bill Shorten praised the efforts of both the federal and state governments to prepare for the cyclone.
Mr Shorten echoed the Prime Minister in saying insurance companies were "on notice".