Australians Await Category 6 Cyclone

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Cyclone Yasi has yet to make landfall along Australia's northeast coast, but it's already been recorded as one of the most powerful storms in history.

Packing winds of up to 185 mph, the category 6 cyclone should blow into Cairns and Townsville along the North Queensland coast between 10 p.m. and midnight on Wednesday.

Satellite tracking showed the cyclone's front stretching over 300 miles, and meteorologists estimated it will take approximately one hour for the storm's eye to pass over any given point.

Officials at the Bureau of Meteorology are expecting a whopping 28 inches of rain and tidal waves that will surge deeper inland than usual.

About 10,000 people have already taken refuge in 20 evacuation centers, but those who chose to remain in their homes will have to tough it out from there.

Police were working Wednesday to get any remaining stragglers off the streets without delay.

"Everyone's gotta go now," one policeman told people walking near the waterfront. "The water is coming now!" he said.

Australian Prime Minister Julie Gillard spoke on national television Tuesday night.

"This is a cyclone of savagery and intensity. People are facing some really dreadful hours in front of them," Gillard said.

To help put Cyclone Yasi in perspective, Hurricane Katrina - which devastated New Orleans in 2005, killing nearly 1,500 people and causing an estimated $80 billion in damage - was a category 5 storm.

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AP contributed to this report.

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