Port Hedland empties as cyclone threat looms

A tropical low lurking off the coast of the Pilbara. Image: Bureau of Meteorology.

The Pilbara Ports Authority has cleared all large vessels at Port Hedland in preparation for a cyclone potentially hitting the north Western Australian coastline.

The PPA issued its first cyclone warning at 8am Perth time on Thursday as a tropical low lurked 740 kilometres south east of Christmas Island and approached the Australian mainland.

The low is forecasted to bring gale force winds and significant swells when it hits the coastline, which is likely to cross the east of Pilbara coast on Friday afternoon, according to the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM).

The BOM reported the tropical low’s location to be 900 kilometres northwest of Karratha at 2pm Perth time on Thursday.

While the PPA is on alert to bunker down, the BOM has reported the cyclone risk to be low, but urges Pilbara residents and operations to remain vigilant.

“There is a low risk of 02U developing into a tropical cyclone overnight into Friday morning prior to crossing the east Pilbara coast,” the BOM stated.

“There is a very slight risk it moves slower than forecast and crosses the coast as late as Saturday morning.

“Although the risk of the system being classified as a tropical cyclone is low, there is a moderate to high risk of persistent gale force winds in the north eastern quadrant of 02U, meaning damaging winds could still be experienced near the low.

“These stronger winds are the result of enhanced monsoonal north westerly flow and the system’s speed of movement. Heavy rainfall is also expected with the passage of the tropical low.”

The Port of Port Hedland is the world’s biggest iron ore export hub and is used by BHP, Fortescue Metals Group, Hancock Prospecting and Mineral Resources.

According to Reuters, the weather would have no impact on BHP’s monthly shipment volume.

PPA will keep the public notified of the developing weather system and its port clearing via Twitter.

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