Cyclone Damien tracker
Rain and gale force winds are pummelling a stretch of West Australian coastline in the state’s north with Tropical Cyclone Damien expected to make landfall later this afternoon.
- Cyclone Damien is predicted to cross the coast as a category three system
- It will be the strongest cyclone to make landfall in the region since 2013
- A red alert is in place and gale force winds are predicted
A red alert is in place for areas in WA’s Pilbara region which is bracing for severe, destructive winds, torrential rainfall and storm surges after Damien intensified overnight.
The major city of Karratha, which has a population of about 16,000, remained in the sights of the cyclone.
Neil Bennett from the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said the cyclone was likely to make landfall as a “higher end” category three system.
“We haven’t seen any further intensification [of the system],” Mr Bennett said.
“There was a possibility it could be up to a category four, but we’re thinking that it’ll probably impact as a category three and that’s still a very powerful system.
“Wind gusts of 220 km per hour are possible around the core.”
The cyclone is expected to cross the coast near Dampier and Karratha, with sustained winds of about 150km per hour near the centre, Mr Bennett added.
“Tides are expected to rise significantly above the normal high tide mark and that’s for residents in Dampier and Whim Creek,” he said.
“Damaging waves and dangerous flooding from the sea and rainfall … could cause flooding.”
The BOM has advised winds will be strong enough to down trees and pull roofs off poorly constructed buildings.
Residents are also being warned about the risks of storm surge, depending on the timing of the system and the position of the tide.
The Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) also warned the winds have already picked up.
Damien will be the first severe cyclone to cross the Karratha and Port Hedland area since Cyclone Christine in late December 2013.
Perth to escape cyclone rain
Earlier, BOM duty forecaster Luke Huntington said Perth was likely to escape any after-effects of the system as it made its way inland next week.
“At this stage the rainfall looks like it’s going to stay through the inland parts of WA, so at this stage Perth is going to likely miss out on any rainfall,” Mr Huntington said.
“We’ve got it weakening below tropical cyclone strength early on Sunday morning, so that looks like it could be around the Tom Price or Paraburdoo area.
“After then it will be downgraded to a tropical low.”
Red alert as residents warned to prepare
A red alert is in place for people from Whim Creek to Mardie and south to Millstream, while a yellow alert is in place for people from Port Hedland to north of Whim Creek and south to Wittenoom.
Facebook: ABCPilbara raining in Karratha
People in these areas have been told they need to prepare for cyclonic weather and move to shelter.
The Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) said more resources had been deployed to the region.
“We are planning for the worst,” DFES assistant commissioner Brad Delavale said.
“We have sent an urban search and rescue team to Port Hedland to assist with damage assessment should it occur.”
Evacuation centres have been set up at Karratha’s Leisureplex and the JD Hardie Centre in South Hedland, with residents urged to put their cyclone plan in place.
“If you are going to go to these evacuation centres, I recommend that you go early and you take the bare essential items such as medications and identification with you,” assistant commissioner Delavale said.
People in the alert zone were also warned to prepare their houses for the cyclone’s arrival by fastening cyclone screens, boarding up or taping windows and locking doors.
Residents bunkered down as cyclone heads for Dampier
Mermaid Hotel manager Nick Bond told ABC Radio they were well prepared and were just staying put in Dampier, near where the cyclone is expected to make landfall, about 15 kilometres north-west of Karratha.
“We’ve got all our staff in the main building at the hotel, we’ve actually got 57 guests staying with us, contractors from the mining industry, mainly, bunkering down.”
He said he had been at the hotel for 16 years and experienced two or three category three cyclones.
But he said he is confident they were safe as the building weathered a category five cyclone, Orson, in 1989.
“We’re feeling pretty comfortable at the moment but we’re well aware there’s a lot more wind coming,” Mr Bond said.
“We had to do pretty early breakfast this morning, at 5am before the wind picked up and all the guests have a packed lunch in their room
“The ones that didn’t want to stay in a room are in the main building with us.”
Mr Bond said the phones were still working and most people were watching TV but hotel staff had to take the Foxtel dishes off the roof so they did not get ripped down by the wind.
“It’s really just a matter of sitting tight and using some common sense.” he said.
Port Hedland given all clear
Port Hedland, 190 kilometres north-east of Karratha, has been given the all clear.
But residents are being advised to remain alert for hazards.
A flood warning is in place for Port Hedland, Karratha, Tom Price, Paraburdoo, Nanutarra Roadhouse, Marble Bar, Kalbarri, Meekatharra, Murchinson and Kumarina.
Assistant Commissioner Delavale said residents needed to “react responsibly” after some people were seen surfing along the Pilbara coast.
“That’s risky, and when our emergency services personnel are preparing for a cyclone, we don’t want to have to be out rescuing people doing unnecessary things,” he said.
The WA Country Health Service confirmed Karratha Health Campus would remain open throughout the weekend.
Power company braces for blackouts
Horizon Power retail and community manager Michelle South said this weekend would be the second time the Pilbara’s underground power network would be tested.
During Cyclone Christine in 2013, more than 13,000 customers lost power in the area, but during Cyclone Veronica last year that just 250 of 9,000 customers lost power.
“We’re not anticipating any major outages, of course that is subject to the strength of the cyclone and the path that it does take,” Ms South said.
“However, we’re well positioned in Karratha having the underground power network.
“We do have some more vulnerable areas such as Point Samson and Roebourne, as those are fed by overhead networks still … so those are a little bit more vulnerable to high winds during cyclonic conditions.”