Severe inundation possible as cyclone closes in on Pilbara coast

Shannon Beattie and Matthew LaytonNorth West Telegraph
VideoCyclone Veronica is expected to strengthen to a category five before making landfall sometime this weekend.

Parts of the Pilbara remain on blue alert this morning with Cyclone Veronica still slowly tracking towards the coast.

Veronica is currently 365 kilometres north northwest of Port Hedland and 360 kilometres north of Karratha, it should track south to southwest today before taking a more south to southeast track on Saturday and impact the coast from later Saturday afternoon and on Sunday.

Gales with gusts to 100 kilometres per hour are expected to develop between Pardoo and Mardie from overnight on Friday, whilst destructive winds with gusts exceeding 125 kilometres per hour are forecast to develop along the coast between Dampier and Pardoo tomorrow.

Major flooding is likely along parts of the Pilbara coast over the weekend and heavy rainfall may extend through the inland Pilbara as the system moves inland.

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Blue alert remains in place from Pardoo to Mardie, whilst the watch zone has extended to the inland Pilbara inclduing Pannawonica and Marble Bar, as well as from Wallal Downs to Pardoo and Mardie to Onslow.

Speaking to Spirit Radio, Bureau of Meteorology senior climatologist Glenn Cook said coastal residents should prepare for severe coastal inundation.

“We are at the time of the year when tides are at their absolute highest,” he said.

“In conjunction with storm surge from the low pressure system we would expect strong storm surges along the coast, particularly to the east of the system.

“The Port Hedland area as well could expect a significant amount of rainfall, we are talking in the hundreds of millimetres, over several days.”

Mr Cook said people to the west of the forecasted landfall should be wary of the cyclone changing track.

BHP has sent non-essential FIFO staff home and began clearing the port yesterday. Rio Tinto also began clearing Dampier and Cape Lambert ports.

Department of Fire and Emergency Services acting chief superintendent Paul Carr yesterday urged visitors to the Pilbara to get out before the storm front hits.

“If you don’t need to be there or feel uncomfortable, there is time to leave early,” he said.

“It will not be a pleasant holiday environment.”

DFES has sent 35 staff and volunteers to the region from Perth to assist local emergency services crews.

In Karratha, the Leisureplex has been set up as an evacuation centre and sandbags are available from the SES on Balmoral Road.

Veronica looms over the Pilbara coast almost 20 years to the day that Vance, one of the strongest cyclones to hit the Australian mainland, flattened more than 100 homes in Exmouth.

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