Emergency services say residents need to prepare for what could be the first category four cyclone to hit Western Australia’s north-west in a decade.
- The Bureau of Meteorology says the tropical low off Broome is expected to strengthen into a tropical cyclone overnight
- It is expected to cross the coast between Port Hedland and Broome on Thursday or Friday, and bring destructive conditions
- If it eventuates as a category four system, it will be the first to travel across WA’s north west in nearly 10 years
The tropical low is currently over waters north of the Kimberley, about 475 kilometres north of Broome as of early Tuesday morning.
The system is expected to reach cyclone strength over the course of Wednesday night as it continues to track south-west along the Kimberley coast.
It will be known as Tropical Cyclone Ilsa once it develops, with the system currently expected to make landfall along the coast between Port Hedland and Broome Thursday and Friday.
It will then track south along the coast between the two towns throughout late Thursday or early Friday.
With heavy rain, gale force winds and potential flooding expected, Department of Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm said locals should not take the potential for a cyclone lightly.
“It’s been 10 years since there’s been a cyclone greater than category three through this area,” he said.
“People up in those communities need to make sure they’re prepared.”
DFES Pilbara Superintendent Peter McCarthy said they were working to clear out caravan parks and campsites in the cyclone’s likely path.
“[Great Northern Highway] will be closed with 300 millimetres of rain and 200kph winds,” he said.
Local shires and councils began warning residents to begin cyclone preparation, including tying down furniture and lopping trees, as early as last week.
Tourists in town
School holidays and the Easter long weekend brought hundreds of tourists to Broome, with flights expected to depart throughout Tuesday and Wednesday as normal.
“For caravans, now’s the time to be changing your travel plans if you’re heading up there,” Commissioner Klemm said.
“If you’re at Eighty Mile Beach, now’s the time to be to be packing up and heading south.
“I would imagine flights are going to be up to the airports … but certainly Thursday would be a potential date [to keep an eye on].”
Travellers are advised to remain in Broome or Karratha until the system has passed through the region.
Barn Hill Beachside Station Stay Caravan Park owner Janice Bell said they had already shut their gate to tourists as a safety precaution.
“We’ve lived here on the station for over 60 years, so we’ve been through plenty of cyclones, so we know exactly what we need,” she said.
“You never know what a cyclone can do, but we are definitely well prepared.”
Commissioner Klemm said extra crews had been sent to Broome, Bidyadanga, and two helicopters had been sent to help local volunteers in Karratha.
Region braces for impact
Pilbara station owner Annabelle Coppin said she would wait for predictions to become clearer before enacting her cyclone safety plan.
“We generally have a bit of a plan for at least four days out from a cyclone, which is today,” she said.
“It will depend heavily on what happens in the next three days.
“Cyclones are very unpredictable, so we’ve just got to be prepared that it is coming towards us and hope we get some nice rain out of it.”
Further north, Ken Norton from Sandfire Roadhouse said they were well prepared for the days ahead.
“We won’t be running out of supplies in the near future,” he said.
“[It’s] pretty much common sense, really. We’ve done all our cyclone prep back in December.
“Really we haven’t got a lot to do around the place.”
It comes as the Kimberley community continues to deal with the aftermath of ex-Tropical Cyclone Ellie, which wreaked havoc on the Fitzroy Valley when it crossed in early January.
Commissioner Klemm said Fitzroy Crossing and the surrounding region would not experience the impacts of the tropical low pressure system, but locals were still nervous.
Traditional owner Joe Ross said there was concern about the amount of rain due to travel over the Kimberley in coming days.
“Everybody’s … holding their breath that the rain doesn’t come down south of Kalumburu,” he said.
Loading YouTube content