Strongest cyclone in a decade to ‘smash’ WA coast

Tropical cyclone warning WA

Source: BOM

Pastoralists in northern Western Australia fear they’ll be “smashed” as authorities warn an intensifying storm is likely to become a destructive cyclone.

The low off the Kimberley coast is expected to reach tropical cyclone strength during Tuesday and potentially become a category-four cyclone by Thursday.

It would be the first cyclone of that strength in the region in more than a decade.

“We’re talking winds in excess of 200km/h and 250km/h in the core,” Bureau of Meteorology senior meteorologist Dean Narramore said.

“It will cause very heavy rainfall which is expected to cause riverine and flash flooding.

“Very dangerous conditions forming up there on Thursday night through to Friday morning.”

Todd Smith from the BOM has forecast more than 200 millimetres of rain a day as the cyclone tracked inland through the DeGrey River catchment.

“We expect to see strong river rises, we have a flood watch current for those parts,” he said.

Thunderstorms with heavy rainfall are expected in the northern Kimberley region from Tuesday. Abnormally high tides are also expected on the Kimberley coast between Kalumburu and Kuri Bay.

“In some locations, the tide may be close to the highest astronomical tide of the year,” the bureau said.

It has urged communities along the west Kimberley coast to prepare for extreme weather conditions.

Wallal Downs cattle station, north-east of Port Hedland, is in the weather bureau’s projected path of the powerful storm system.

Manager Belinda Lethbridge said her team was preparing as much as they could but it may not be enough to save the property from destruction.

“This one is potentially going to be the worst we’ve seen for a number of years from what they’re reporting so it’s a lot more concerning than any others,” she said on Tuesday.

“All the models are heading the right way – the wrong way for us, meaning we’re probably going to get smashed pretty badly, but the right way for a big catastrophe.”

Ms Lethbridge said her family had managed the station for eight years and “escaped fairly unscathed” from two cyclones in that time. They also run nearby Warrawagine Station, which is also in the cyclone’s potential path.

At category-four strength, the storm is likely to damage buildings and lead to widespread power failures and flooding.

“We’ll be organised but you can only do as much as you can and you think you’re prepared as you can be, but you never know how bad it’s going to be,” Ms Lethbridge said.

The two stations’ dozen staff will be evacuated to Broome on Wednesday ahead of the cyclone’s arrival.

Western Australia’s Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm said communities between Broome and Port Hedland should activate their emergency plans.

“Clean up around home, have your emergency kit, and keep up to date with warnings,” he said on Monday.

“Make sure you’re prepared, there is no excuse for not being prepared.”

Mr Klemm urged anyone travelling in a caravan between Port Hedland and Broome to leave immediately and head south.

“If you’re in a caravan in that area, now is the time to be changing your travel plans,” he said.

By Tuesday afternoon (AEST), the tropical low was over the Indian Ocean north-west of Derby, with residents from Port Hedland to Broome told to prepare for cyclonic weather.

The bureau said gale-force winds and heavy rain could develop between the Dampier Peninsula and areas north of Broome on Wednesday.

Squally thunderstorms and heavy rain are also expected over the western Kimberley region on Tuesday and into Wednesday, and abnormally high tides could hit the coast.

Showers and possible storms are forecast on Tuesday for many towns in an area stretching from the Kimberley to parts of the Northern Territory, including Darwin.

Eighty Mile Beach caravan park, which also lies in the storm’s projected path has been contacted for comment.

-with AAP

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