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Cyclone watch issued for north-eastern Top End communities

By Emily JB Smith, Kristy O'Brien and staff, Thursday March 22, 2018 - 21:10 EDT
ABC licensed image
The cyclone forecast track map was issued by the Bureau of Meteorology at 5pm on Wednesday. - ABC licensed

Coastal communities in north-east Arnhem land should prepare now for the predicted Tropical Cyclone Nora, which is expected to hit the region on Friday.



A cyclone watch was issued at 2:00pm Wednesday from Millingimbi to Cape Shield, including Yirrkala and Nhulunbuy, as a precautionary measure.

NT Emergency Services chief officer Jason Collins urged residents in this region to make plans, check cyclone kits and to ensure they had enough food and water to last 72 hours.

VHS radios and satellite phones should be charged, and residents should ensure they are aware of the warnings being released.

He urged people, especially tourists, to cancel travel plans to the region.

Although emergency service crews had been kept busy after , Mr Collins said fatigue management systems were in place and fresh crews were prepared in the region.

He said it had already been in contact with most communities and outstations by Wednesday afternoon.

Cyclone conditions 'really favourable'

Bureau of Meteorology NT manager Todd Smith said the low had come in from the Torres Strait and was currently in the Arafura Sea about 300 kilometres to the north of Nhulunbuy, and was intensifying.

During the next 24 hours it was expected to move west, before taking a south-easterly track towards the Gulf of Carpentaria.

"It's in really favourable conditions for the development of a tropical cyclone at the moment," Mr Smith said.



"As it continues to move into the Gulf of Carpentaria conditions remain favourable there.

"People need to be preparing now."

It was too early to discern how intense it would be.

, expected to become a category five, but should remain at sea.

The forecast cyclone should not impact Darwin weather.

Four days with no power

That should come as a relief for Darwin residents, as 2,500 homes still had no power on Wednesday afternoon after damage from Tropical Cyclone Marcus.

Power and Water said earlier on Wednesday that some residents could be waiting until Friday before their power is reconnected.

Tap water in the community of Belyuen is once again safe to drink.

'It's been a bit rough'

It could be weeks before Rod Tremlett's household returns to normality, after a mahogany crashed through the roof of his Moil home during the storm.

Given the demand for tradespeople, he thought there could be a long wait before the hole in the ceiling was fixed and power was reconnected.



"We had the big mahogany fall, it was like a crack of thunder on the ground," he said.

He said one of the mahogany's that fell onto his property was from the council park next door, which he claimed the community had been urging council to remove the past "five or six years".

Only two survived the storm, and he hoped .



Malak resident Kelvin James agreed, stating he believed the cyclone should prompt removal of the exotic trees, as well as installation of underground power throughout the region.

After spending the cyclone "having a few beers" out on the front porch, he'd been clearing debris from his garden since Monday and expected there were still a few hours to go by Wednesday morning.

"There's trees above (the powerlines). They're just looking for a disaster," he said.

Another Moil resident, Trent Nathan Appo remained without power four days after the storm.

"It's been a bit rough because I got a six month old child [but] I'm sure it's been rough for a lot of people," Mr Appo said.

He even took leave from work so he could give the power crews access past his dogs, but was locked in a waiting game as he didn't know when they would arrive.

Nick Ergos had only owned his Alawa coffee shop a week before the cyclone hit.

While he lost about $500 worth of meat and seafood during the three day power cut, he did provide a sense of community to about 10 residents, who came to drink coffee and play cards at the shop during the storm.

Even though it was possible to claim food spoilage through insurance, Mr Ergos didn't think he would bother.

"It's okay. Shit happens," he said.



Evelyn Bourgoin's husband had only used his new boat five times before it got destroyed by a falling tree during the cyclone.

The family also had a baby which got so cranky and tired in the heat caused by power cuts they went and stayed in a hotel for a night.

Jing Sang Yu's family at Nakara had the same idea, but couldn't find one with vacancy.

They ended up sleeping outside and spent Sunday afternoon wandering Casuarina Square in an effort to beat the heat.



Cyclone brings out community spirit

Jack Xie "stayed home and felt very scared" during Tropical Cyclone Marcus.

Mr Xie spoke very little English, having only moved to Darwin from China two years ago, and through a friend who translated told the ABC he had never experienced a cyclone before.

While it would have been difficult to navigate how to prepare for the impending storm without a firm grasp of English, Mr Xie's church community warned him and helped after a tree fell on his car.

The Nakara resident said if there was another he would go and stay at an evacuation shelter.

Matthew Smiler, Moses Majindi and Raymond Goulder spent the night of the cyclone at a carpark evacuation centre.

While they said they could only sleep about 20 minutes at a time on the concrete ground, they had brought along pillows and sheets and said "it wasn't too bad".

"It was just a bit scary," Mr Smiler said.



Strongest cyclone since Tracy

Greg Browning from the NT Bureau of Meteorology confirmed Tropical Cyclone Marcus was the strongest cyclone since Tracy in 1974, but that was in another class entirely.

Winds gusts were clocked at 130 kilometres an hour at Darwin Harbour and 126 kilometres an hour at the airport during Tropical Cyclone Marcus.

The next strongest was Tropical Cyclone Gretel in 1985, where 117 kilometres an hour was recorded at Darwin Harbour.

But the peak gusts during Tracy were at "217 kilometres an hour at the airport, and that's before the wind measuring instruments got destroyed."

"[It was] well and truly a lot stronger than what we saw in Marcus," Mr Browning said.

"I think people are a little bit blasé about what a category two cyclone can do and that [Marcus] was a low end category two so you can just imagine what a category four cyclone can do.

"If you've been through a category four or category five cyclone it's something you would never forget and you'd be totally humbled by it."


- ABC

© ABC 2018

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