Severe Tropical Cyclone Marcia is set to bring "calamity" to Queensland as the category five storm crosses the coast bearing destructive wind gusts up to 285 kilometres per hour.
Marcia made landfall about 7:30am (AEST) near Shoalwater Bay, between St Lawrence and Yeppoon in Central Queensland.
The Bureau of Meteorology said very destructive winds were expected in Yeppoon later this morning.
The cyclone warning is from Sarina and Double Island Point, north of Gympie, and extends inland to Duaringa, Moura, Biloela, Monto, and Mundubbera.
Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said a "desperate situation" was unfolding, and emergency service workers would themselves be forced to take cover soon.
"This is going to be a calamity, there is absolutely no doubt about that - our primary focus from this point on is the safety of all human life in that area," he said.
Mr Stewart said emergency services officers had done as much as they could to prepare.
Within the next couple of hours even our emergency services personnel will be withdrawing and they will be going to places of safety.
Police Commissioner Ian Stewart
"Within the next couple of hours even our emergency services personnel will be withdrawing and they will be going to places of safety," he said.
"We've done as much as we can now to prepare - it's up to everyone to look after themselves, their friends and family at this point."
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said severe damage was expected and lives were at risk.
"Over the next few hours, many thousands of Queenslanders are about to go through a harrowing and terrifying experience," she said.
"I want those people to know that we are with you every step of the way - we will be standing by your side - this a severe cyclone."
The Commonwealth stands ready to offer all possible assistance to the emergency services in Queensland and ... the standard natural disaster recovery arrangements will be in place.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott
Ms Palaszczuk said there were reports that people were still driving around on the roads in Yeppoon and surrounding coastal areas.
"You are putting your lives and others at risk - please stop driving, return to your homes immediately," she said.
"We are really concerned - this cyclone is going through populated areas of Queensland, families lives are at risk."
Ms Palaszczuk said it was expected the cyclone would pass through Rockhampton as a category three storm in the early afternoon.
"Can I please stress to everyone do not go outdoors - stay inside your homes, that is the safest place to be during this time," she said, adding that the noise of the cyclone "will be extreme".
Prime Minister Tony Abbott, speaking in Adelaide, said federal help would be offered to Queensland and NT communities affected by the cyclones.
"I just want to note that the thoughts of Australians are with people in central Queensland and the Northern Territory right now, as both those regions are threatened by major cyclones," he said.
"My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Rockhampton, Gladstone particularly, because these are the areas most impacted.
"I have been in contact with the Queensland Premier's office just before coming here to let her know that the Commonwealth stands ready to offer all possible assistance to the emergency services in Queensland and that the standard natural disaster recovery arrangements will be in place.
"We are used to difficult and dangerous summers in this country - this is a very serious storm and let's hope that we can get through it without too much damage and certainly without any loss of life."
It's wild out there: Yeppoon local
We believe the roof is cyclone-rated. I certainly hope that proves to be true, otherwise we're in trouble.
Yeppoon wildlife ranger John McGrath
John McGrath, a wildlife ranger who lives on the beach at Yeppoon, told News 24 he had watched the situation worsen since early this morning and his young family had taken shelter in the bathroom of their century-old house.
"Looking out the window and basically the trees and bushes are just going side to side, really getting buffeted about - quite wild winds," he said.
"I've seen similar winds before, but you just know it's escalating - palm trees swaying, actually doing gymnastics essentially.
"It's wild out there - it is not a safe place to go out side now, for sure."
He said of his house: "It is a high-set weatherboard built into a steep hill. The flexibility of the weatherboard means that hopefully a bit of give with the wind and hopefully we should be alright.
"Friends have told me it should be alright. We believe the roof is cyclone-rated. I certainly hope that proves to be true, otherwise we're in trouble.
"And yeah, we've got a lot of window pains, panes and that, so I'm just hoping that they hold up to any flying debris that will inevitably be coming our way."
George Thompson said he had evacuated from a boat he was staying on in Yeppoon.
"She's still in Ross Creek, but I'm not quite sure how much longer it will be there - massive surge on top of the big tide so I'm expecting the worst," he said.
"I actually went and stayed at a friend's place in a caravan park, but we've since had to evacuate there as well."
Resort operator Sian Appleton said Great Keppel Island off Yeppoon was preparing for serious damage.
"We've lost a lot of sand, erosion has been fairly heavy," she said.
"I think we'll probably lose three cabins and maybe even some of the bistro area."
Cyclone won't weaken quickly, BOM saysBureau of Meteorology (BoM) senior forecaster Sam Campbell said the monster storm was not expected to weaken quickly, and would likely remain at least a category three until this evening, and possibly into Saturday.
"Even at 4:00pm [Friday] we expect it to stay at a category three cyclone," he said.
In St Lawrence, hundreds of locals were asked to evacuate by police last night, and urgent evacuations were ordered in Yeppoon early this morning.
Queensland Police said the emergency cyclone shelter at the St Lawrence bowls club had been shut down as it was not strong enough to handle the system.
About 16 people staying there were evacuated and taken to Sarina late last night, Senior Constable Matthew McKinnon said.
"As a result of the cyclone reaching a category five, the information received was that those people were required to vacate that area and the town was also requested to vacate," he said.
Heavy rain and gales were now hitting some coastal and island communities between Sarina and Double Island Point, and residents there were being warned to be prepared to shelter in a safe place.
The destructive winds were expected to extend across coastal and island communities between St Lawrence and Gladstone later this morning, before heading inland across the Capricornia and Burnett districts.
The very destructive central core of the cyclone could generate gusts up to 300 kilometres an hour, the BoM warned.
It said the eye of the storm was about 20 kilometres wide.
Schools, daycares closedScores of schools and regional airports are closed and the Whitsunday Islands are in lockdown.
The Queensland Government said it had closed about 100 schools and childcare centres, with the full list of closures posted on the Department of Education website.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the State Government was ready.
"In relation to the hospitals, all of their plans have been activated and are ready to go," she said.
"We have also heard from the ambulance services and they are all prepared.
"We have moved additional resources up to Mackay and Rockhampton.
"I have been in contact with several mayors - Rockhampton, Livingstone, Bundaberg and Gladstone - and I have assured them the State Government is doing everything we possibly can."
Torrential rain forecast
Heavy rain may lead to flash flooding, with some 24 hour totals expected in excess of 300 millimetres on the coast and nearby ranges.
On the Sunshine Coast, more than 140 millimetres of rain had fallen across some parts in the past 24 hours before 4:30am.
The highest falls were 143mm at Tewantin and 100mm at Gympie and Nambour.
There was some localised flash flooding, which was expected to worsen with a king tide later this morning.
Several roads were cut and more than 5,500 homes were blacked out.
There were also reports of a landslip at Hunchy Road in Montville in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland.
Bureau of Meteorology regional director Rob Webb said the cyclone would dump between 200 millimetres and 300 millimetres of rain.
"Those falls up to 500 millimetres or more are possible," he said.