Pilbara on red alert

Western Australia’s Pilbara region is on red alert as the severe “slow-moving and erratic” tropical cyclone Rusty edges closer to the coastline.

On Monday buildings were being boarded up, flights were cancelled and people evacuated as the Pilbara and Kimberley regions battened down the hatches, waiting to feel Rusty’s wrath.

Today the cyclone continues to gather power off the coast, prompting the Bureau of Meteorology to upgrade TC Rusty to a category four storm.

A red alert has also been issued for areas between Pardoo and Whim Creek, including Port Hedland.

Residents have been warned to expect extensive flooding, winds of up to 200km/hr, big swells, and high tides.

Horizon Power said about 2000 customers were currently without electricity in South Hedland, as power supply continues to be interrupted by high winds.

“Horizon Power has inspected the infrastructure and identified a fallen power line as the cause of the unplanned power interruption,” a Horizon Power spokeswoman told The West.

“Horizon Power is unable to undertake restoration work at present, as wind speeds in Port and South Hedland have already exceeded the safe operational limits which allow crews to respond to faults.” 

The cyclone remained almost stationary overnight, but the bureau expects it to resume a southerly track towards the Pilbara today, making landfall this afternoon.

It has been reported about 200 people have been evacuated by police and emergency services.

Long time Port Hedland resident, Mr Daccache told The West he was a wet season wild weather veteran, but expects this cyclone will be one of the worst the town has ever seen.

“This one’s a bit of a beauty,” Mr Daccache said.

Yesterday Pardoo Station recorded 200mm of rain and Warrawagine 64mm, and there is more to come with the equivalent of Perth’s annual rainfall expected to fall on the Pilbara over the next three days.

“We are talking Noah’s Ark here, we really are talking phenomenal amounts of rainfall,” bureau forecaster Andrew Burton said.

“We are seeing totals already up around the 100-150mm per day up the coast. I think that’s going to pale into insignificance compared to what we’ll see over the next couple days.”

Already winds of up to 119km/h have been recorded across Port and South Hedland.

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An Australian Mining reader ‘Chris’ yesterday commented saying: “It's getting pretty bloody wild outside. Evacuations have begun in lower lying parts of Port Hedland. The cyclone is still anything up to 40 hours from making landfall with red alert being declared a few hours ago. Everything is tied down and now we're just waiting it out.

“Evacuations are underway in lower lying areas in Port Hedland and a dangerous storm surge is predicted as the storm gets closer. We're in for a wild time, but also prepared as best as possible. Power is already out in some parts with the cyclone still between 24-40 hours from the coast. Stay safe everyone in Hedland and surrounding areas, see you all on the other side.”

Most of the region's major mining companies flew workers out on Monday and Port Hedland, Dampier and Cape Lambert ports have been closed in preparation for the storm.

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