Cyclone Veronica tipped to reach cat five before making Pilbara crossing

Angela Ayers, David Eckhart and Tom ZaunmayrNorth West Telegraph
VideoSupermarket shelves cleared as Pilbara residents brace for the arrival of Cyclone Veronica.

Pilbara residents are being urged to begin preparations now as severe Tropical Cyclone Veronica threatens to make a coastal impact this weekend.

A blue alert has been issued for Karratha, Port Hedland and surrounding towns and stations for the cyclone, which is sitting about 400km north-north west of Port Hedland.

At 8pm tonight, the cyclone was 360km north northwest of Port Hedland and 385km north of Karratha and tracking southwest at 6km/h.

Current forecasts have the system intensifying to a category five before heading south and making landfall as a category four on Sunday afternoon.

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Bureau of Meteorology state manager James Ashley said the system was already packing wind gusts up around 250kmh.

“With the coastal crossing expected over the weekend and the cyclone remaining as a severe system the rainfall totals will be very high, we are talking hundreds of millimetres, and it is fairly slow moving so that makes rainfall even heavier,” he said.

“That will lead to flooding through those coastal areas in particular.

“As it approaches the coast, depending on the tidal movement, it can create very dangerous storm surges as well which again can lead to flooding of coastal areas.”

BoM forecasting predicts more than 500mm of rain could fall in Karratha over the next five days, and similar falls are expected in surrounding towns.

Twin cyclones. Tropical Cyclone Veronica and Tropical Cyclone Trevor over northern Australia.
Camera IconTwin cyclones. Tropical Cyclone Veronica and Tropical Cyclone Trevor over northern Australia. Credit: Bureau of Meteorology.

Speaking to Spirit 94.1 Hedland this morning, Pilbara Weather Guy founder Angus McLeod said Veronica could reach category five intensity today.

“There is a fair degree of uncertainty with this system and I guess you could say this part of the world, the Indian Ocean, is a bit of a storm in a teacup at the moment,” he said.

“Looking at the wind sheer charts it does favour a slightly more centralised track which would bring it closer to Whim Creek.

“We will have to see what happens but she may actually do a trampoline and bounce back out to sea after making landfall, so that is a bit of an intriguing one at this point.”

Mr McLeod said people in the watch zone needed to be prepared for impact.

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services has urged people in the watch zone to stow away all loose material around property, stock up emergency kits and ensure family and friends know what to do.

The last category four cyclone to hit the North West coast was Christine, which made landfall between Karratha and Port Hedland in December 2013.

Cyclone George in 2007 was the last category five system to hit the Pilbara coast. It killed three people and caused $8 million damage near Port Hedland.

Almost 20 years ago to the day one of the strongest cyclones in Australian history, Vance, caused upwards of $100m damage after making landfall near Exmouth.

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