Residents of the Pilbara in northern are being urged to stay indoors until the weakening but still extremely dangerous tropical cyclone Veronica passes.
The Bureau of Meteorology said Veronica had weakened from a Category 3 storm, on a scale in which 5 is the strongest, to a Category 2, with sustained winds near its centre of 100km/h and wind gusts of up to 140km/h.
The storm was expected to continue to track west away from the coast of the sparsely populated Pilbara region of Western Australia state and weaken below cyclone strength late today, the bureau said.
There have been no reports of injuries or major structural damage but damage assessment has only just begun today.
The storm brought very destructive gusts of more than 200km/h as it tracked along the coast between Karratha and Port Hedland yesterday evening.
Premier Mark McGowan urged people to stay indoors, even those who had weathered previous cyclones before, because the vicious storm was moving slowly.
“People in that part of the world are used to cyclones but this one is different,” he said yesterday.
After a hectic weekend of cyclone activity for WA and NT, this is Australia's current view from Himawari-8. Heavy Rainfall and locally destructive winds for ex-TC Trevor today, showers and rain extending to NSW/QLD. A strong cold front impacting the south with damaging winds. pic.twitter.com/DRd9XRToZY— Bureau of Meteorology, Australia (@BOM_au) March 25, 2019
Widespread rainfall means major flooding over the Pilbara coast is likely today.
Rivers are rising and roads and communities could be cut off and isolated.
A dangerous storm tide was also predicted to hit the region this morning and damaging waves are predicted to bring inundation.
Some 60,000 people live in the area most affected by Veronica.
The iron ore mining region is said to be generally well prepared for cyclones that lash its coast frequently.
Many communities remain at red alert status but that warning is expected to be lifted later today.
Karratha Mayor Peter Long yesterday said the strong southerly winds reached 120km/h and caused vegetation damage and destroyed a shed.
“I’m concerned about the cyclone surge because it’s a spring tide which is the highest tide of the year so we’re expecting a surge of two to five metres,” he said.
We're seeing dangerous coastal impacts, destructive winds & heavy rain as Tropical #CycloneVeronica slowly crosses the #Pilbara coast. The slow movement of the cyclone means conditions will continue for a sustained period today & tomorrow https://t.co/4CwbJRpnuE 📷 Paige Simmons pic.twitter.com/qkPZRHVaCb— Bureau of Meteorology, Western Australia (@BOM_WA) March 24, 2019
Port Hedland Mayor Camilo Blanco yesterday said the rain and winds dramatically intensified within a short period of time.
“The rain has petered off a bit but it was belting down,” he said.
“The winds have picked up a massive amount. On social media, we’ve seen a few trees lifted out.”
The Departments of Fire and Emergency Services’ urged residents in red alert zones to seek shelter in the strongest, safest parts of their homes and to stay clear of doors or windows.
They said people would need to stay in shelter longer than usual due to the destructive storm’s slow pace.
The premier, commenting on reports people had ventured into the storm for selfies, warned against “stupid” behaviour.
Category 3 #CycloneVeronica has hit land just east of Roebourne and west of Port Hedland - she’s packing winds of 155km/hr and gusts up to 220km/hr @10NewsFirstPER @10NewsFirst @10NewsFirstSyd pic.twitter.com/PN6Mwqyn87— Natalie Forrest (@nat_forrest) March 24, 2019
“Don’t take matters into your own hands,” Mr McGowan said.
“Don’t risk your own life, don’t risk the lives of your children, don’t risk the life of others.”
Veronica is the third tropical cyclone this season
The last category four tropical cyclone to hit the WA coast was Christine in December 2013.
An ex-tropical cyclone that passed over far north Queensland on its way to wreaking havoc in the Northern Territory is heading back east.
More than 2000 people were evacuated from coastal and island communities to escape the destructive winds and downpour brought by Trevor. They have begun to return home.
It has since weakened to a tropical low and is now tracking towards western Queensland just south of Mt Isa, where forecasters say it will dump heavy rain for a number of days from today.
I went to the middle of the road this morning and captured this video down my street. I got caught in a gust and nearly went over.— Wendy (@WendyBirdOZ) March 24, 2019
PS: Neighbours tree is no longer there.#CycloneVeronica #Pilbara #Wickham #WesternAustralia pic.twitter.com/XlUmVO0zQW
There is a potential for flooding south of the cattle farming region devastated by floodwaters last month, but meteorologists are watching closely.
“Those areas could get some rain, and heavy rainfall is hard to rule out at this point,” the Bureau of Meteorology’s Lachlan Stoney said.
“(We are) not necessarily forecasting there to be widespread floods, but flooding would be something that we are monitoring closely for areas south of Mt Isa.”
Disaster assistance has been made available for communities in Aurukun Shire Council and the Lockhart River Aboriginal Shire Council to help in the clean up and to restore infrastructure.