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Cyclone Debbie barrels toward Queensland coast, Australia

Torrential rain and strong winds lashed the coast of northeast Australia as Tropical Cyclone Debbie churned closer to shore Tuesday. The slow-moving Category 4 cyclone is now hitting popular tourist islands off the Queensland coast, and is likely to strike the mainland within hours.

"Scariest thing I've ever gone through," Sassha Kozachenko said on Instagram. On Airlie Beach, detritus and debris could be seen hurtling through the air in videos posted on social media.

The cyclone is the equivalent of a Category 3 hurricane and very slow-moving.

"With the very, very strong winds if they just sit there and twirl, it's like a battering ram," Queensland police commissioner Ian Stewart told CNN affiliate 7 News.

The storm already has uprooted trees from the ground and brought significant rainfall to the region.

Residents reported their apartments shaking and windows breaking. Pristine beaches that were bright and sunny Monday were completely flooded Tuesday.

"This is going to get worse," Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told Nine News Queensland.

Cyclone Debbie is expected to make landfall between the town of Bowen and Airlie Beach mid-afterrnoon with wind gusts up 270 kph (167 mph), according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.