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Streets flooded and power cut as tropical low hits the Pilbara

By Gian De Poloni and Graeme Powell, Tuesday June 25, 2013 - 14:13 EST
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Vehicles on a flooded street in South Hedland. - ABC

Residents in Western Australia's Pilbara have started mopping up after heavy rain from a tropical low flooded parts of Port and South Hedland.

State Emergency Service volunteers have been distributing sandbags to affected residents in Hedland after more than 160 millimetres of rain fell in the last 24 hours.

Many streets are flooded and a high tide is due this afternoon.

A total of 650 homes remain without power in Roebourne as well as 26 in Port Hedland.

Main roads throughout the region are closed, including a 200 kilometre stretch of the North West Coastal Highway.

Port Hedland's Mayor, Kelly Howlett, says people should avoid driving on the roads.

"We still have a number of areas that are submerged," she said.

"There is some dissipation in some of the areas but we're really needing people to be quite careful at this stage."

Karratha received 209 millimetres and three Qantas flights from Perth to Karratha had to be diverted.

Duty forecaster Rabi Rivett says a flood watch is current for the Pilbara.

"This weak tropical low system has generated a pretty substantial cloud ban that has streamed down across that area and caused the heavy rain," he said.

He says the rain is very unusual for this time of year.

"This sort of rainfall or even heavier is possible and likely right near a tropical cyclone," he said.

"It's just that we're not in the tropical cyclone season at the moment so very unusual."

Karratha has more than tripled its previous wettest June day record when 63 millimetres fell in 2002.

It is also just three millimetres away from recording its wettest day on record since they officially began in 1971.

The manager of Karratha Station, Ian Heseltine, says his wettest day was in 1945 when 247 millimetres of rain fell.

"I think they lost the shearing shed and the quarters in that year too so it was probably cyclonic," he said.

He says the nearby Maitland River was dry during this year's cyclone season.

"It's been bone dry pretty much all wet season and it's been looking pretty dismal so we'll see if this gives it a bit of a kick," he said.


© ABC 2013

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