Top End braces for Nathan

Communities along the eastern Northern Territory coast are readying for their second major storm event in just over a month, with Cyclone Nathan on course to make landfall early on Sunday.

Residents in the eastern Arnhem Land communities from Nhulunbuy to Port Roper including Groote Eylandt are under a cyclone ‘warning’ level alert, with gale force winds expected within 24 hours, as category one strength Nathan moves west and builds in intensity.

Babies born between cyclones

At 7:30am (CST) the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) said Nathan was estimated to be 475km east south-east of Nhulunbuy and moving west north-west at 19km/h.

Emergency services meet in Nhulunbuy

Emergency services meet in Nhulunbuy. Photo: ABC

On February 18 Cyclone Lam passed north of the region as a category three system before building to category four intensity and crossing the coast the next day, with wind gusts of about 230km/h destroying housing and infrastructure on Elcho Island and causing less severe damage at nearby Milingimbi.

Cyclone Nathan moved into the Gulf of Carpentaria overnight as a category one system with gusts up to 90km/h, defying predictions it would weaken back to tropical low strength as it passed over the land mass of Cape York.

Dozens of NSW Rural Fire Service tents were erected on a football field in Galiwinku, Elcho Island, to accommodate those who lost their homes to Cyclone Lam last month.

But now those residents have been relocated again, as members of the fire service deconstruct the so-called ‘tent city’ in preparation for Nathan.

Residents will now have to spend at least two days in a shelter set up at a nearby school.

Commander Bruce Porter said people in Nathan’s path in areas from Nhulunbuy to Port Roper, including Nhulunbuy, Cape Shield, Groote Eylandt, Numbulwar and Port Roper, should make final preparations to their home shelter or identify which public emergency shelter or strong building to use.

“People should now have your emergency kit complete and ready. Do not proceed to public emergency shelters until advised to do so,” Commander Porter said.

A cyclone awareness sign in Nhulunbuy, eastern Arnhem Land

A cyclone awareness sign in eastern Arnhem Land. Photo ABC

The weather bureau said gales, with gusts to 125km/h, were expected to impact Groote Eylandt and possibly extend to coastal and adjacent inland locations between Nhulunbuy and Port Roper in the Northern Territory early on Sunday morning.

Gales were expected to extend further west along the north coast between Nhulunbuy and Milingimbi later on Sunday morning to Sunday afternoon and may extend further west to Goulburn Island overnight on Sunday or early on Monday.

Heavy rainfall, which may lead to flash flooding, is expected to develop across eastern Arnhem Land as the cyclone approaches overnight on Saturday and on Sunday morning.

Have enough food, water to survive

A cyclone ‘watch’ level alert is in place for communities from Goulburn Island to Nhulunbuy, including Elcho Island and Maningrida.

“For those communities under cyclone watch, now is the time to put together your emergency kit, clear your yards and commence home shelter preparations,” Commander Porter said.

“Fill any water containers you may have to ensure that you have at least three litres of water per person per day for at least 72 hours and fill your vehicles’ fuel tanks.

“If you do not have accommodation constructed to the building code or are unsure of your present accommodation you should determine now where to shelter.

“This may include arranging to shelter with family, friends, or in public emergency shelters or appropriately strong buildings that are available in your community.

“Please ensure that friends, family and neighbours have heard and understood this message, particularly new arrivals to the area.

“Tune in to your local radio and/or television stations for further information and warnings.”

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