Pilbara braces for Rusty

26 Feb, 2013 06:00 AM
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UPDATED 10pm TUES: PILBARA residents are battening down the hatches - and clearing out supermarket shelves - as Cyclone Rusty bears down on WA's north-west coastline.

The cyclone, now rated a Category 3, is bearing down on the coastline - packing winds of nearly 200km an hour - between Pardoo and Whim Creek, which includes Port Hedland. Port Hedland residents have been urged to leave their homes.

The Bureau of Meteorology predicts the system to intensify to a Category 4 system in the next 24 hours before the eye of the storm crosses the coast on Thursday.

NASA satellite data reports the storm is developing an eye 20 nautical miles wide.

Areas of the Pilbara and Kimberley coastlines have already been put on red alert for the cyclone, which was moving south.

The Bureau of Meteorology says the storm front could be as intense as a category 4 as it crosses the coastline, which could bring wind gusts as high as 230km/h.

WA's State Emergency Service (SES) is advising people in communities between Broome and Mardie to prepare an emergency kit including first aid provisions, a torch, a portable radio, spare batteries, food and water.

Bureau spokesman Neil Bennett said Rusty's intensity, size and slow movement was also likely to lead to a dangerous storm tide, including damaging waves.

Mining giant Rio Tinto said it had prepared for the storm by closing the Port Walcott port at Cape Lambert and was finishing up ship-loading at its Dampier ports.

The Port Headland Port Authority said it had evacuated the port on Sunday night and would stay closed.

Virgin cancelled flights from Perth to Broome on Monday, and local businesses reported people were dashing to buy water and tinned food as the storm approached.

Port Hedland and Dampier ports were being closed and all vessels sent out to sea on Monday in preparation for Rusty's arrival.

Rusty's slow motion should also result in higher than usual rainfall in the Pilbara and western Kimberley and very heavy falls expected near the coastal parts of the eastern Pilbara and western Kimberley on Monday.

During Tuesday and Wednesday widespread heavy rainfall is likely to lead to major flooding in the De Grey catchment.

Significant flooding in the Fortescue is also likely.

WAtoday

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