8.00AM: Red alert remains for Cyclone Veronica as destructive winds, flooding continue
Cyclone Veronica has weakened overnight to a category two system, but communities in the area remain on red alert as destructive winds continue to batter WA’s Pilbara coast
The eye of the cyclone is tracking westward parallel to the coast, causing heavy rainfall and flooding between Karratha and Port Hedland, despite having earlier been expected to reach land.
Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) spokesman Darragh Wills said the danger was not yet over.
“It is still a cyclone, and there is still the red alert in force,” he said.
“It is forecast to track west, so the impact will move along the coast along with that although it is moving very slowly.
“If it moved more quickly the rain would go along with it, but it’s in the one spot more or less and the rain just keeps falling, so you’ll get all that rain in a smaller area.”
Power outages reported
Mr Wills said DFES had received no reports of injuries, but there had been isolated power outages and minor damage.
He, like everyone else in the region, had been inside during the night.
“People will also need to be aware of their surroundings and be watchful of anything that might be a safety hazard.”
Residents of Port Hedland and outlying communities have been on red alert since Saturday night, while a yellow alert is current for Barrow Island, Pannawonica and Mardi.
Many have been sheltering in evacuation centres set up in South Hedland and Karratha.
Cyclone heads for Karratha and Dampier
Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Matt Boterhoven said the cyclone was still packing strong winds.
“Currently near the centre we’re looking at mean winds of a hundred kilometres per hour but gusts up to 140 kilometres per hour,” he said.
“When it does track along the Pilbara coast this afternoon, evening, [it] could track very close to Karratha and Dampier so they could see some damaging winds develop.”
Mr Boterhoven said it could cross the coast near Dampier, but said the conditions for Veronica to maintain or increase in intensity were unfavourable.
“If you have a look at the satellite imagery you’ll see the upper level cloud has been sheared off the low-level centre,” he said.
Winds of up to 125 kph are likely to continue throughout the morning, and major flooding is expected along the Pilbara coast and adjacent inland areas.
A dangerous storm tide with damaging waves and coastal inundation are forecast east of Karratha early this afternoon, prompting a warning from DFES that properties in Port Hedland are at risk of inundation.
Schools in the region will be closed today, including those in Port Hedland, South Hedland, Karratha, Marble Bar, Roebourne, Wickham and Dampier.
Economic blow could exceed $1 billion
Ports are also closed, including at Port Hedland, the biggest iron ore exporter in the world.
Analyst Phillip Kirchlechner has warned the cyclone could cost the nation’s economy more than $1 billion.
“Based on iron ore exports out of Australia in recent years, which range from roughly $US60 billion to $US70 billion a year, if [shutdowns last] about a week and there’s no catching up of lost production later, then the impact would be around $US1-1.3 billion,” he said.
Mr Kirchlechner said that cost could be greater if the cyclone caused damage to mining infrastructure, further delaying a resumption of exports.
The Pilbara Ports Authority is uncertain when it will reopen its facilities, which have now been closed for three days.
- DFES warns the danger from Cyclone Veronica is not over yet
- Dangerous storm tides are forecast with a risk of coastal inundation east of Karratha
- Schools and a number of roads in the Pilbara region remain closed