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Tropical Cyclone Joyce declared a category one system as WA prepares for impact

By David Weber and Eliza Laschon, Thursday January 11, 2018 - 21:28 EDT
ABC licensed image
An image captured by the Himawari-8 satellite shows Cyclone Joyce forming off the northern WA coast. - ABC licensed

Communities in WA's north are bracing for the second cyclone in a fortnight, with emergency services issuing a red alert for parts of the Kimberley.

Tropical Cyclone Joyce has formed off the north-west Kimberley coast and is expected to intensify Friday and into Saturday as it moves south.

Joyce was estimated to be about 65 kilometres west-north-west of Broome, and moving south at 20 kilometres per hour.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said the category one system was carrying sustained winds of 85kph near its centre, with gusts up to 120kph.

Those wind gusts could increase to up 180kph on Friday and tides will be higher than expected between Cape Leveque and Pardoo Roadhouse.

A red alert has been issued for people in or near Broome to Bidyandanga including Bidyadanga, but not including Broome, to go to a shelter immediately.

There is a yellow alert for those between Cape Leveque to Broome and Bidyadanga to Wallal and a blue alert between Wallal to Whime Creek including Port Hedland, South Hedland, Marble Bar, Tom Price, Nullagine and nearby communities.

Cyclone to hit as a category three

BOM duty forecaster Noel Puzey said the system could strengthen to a category three cyclone by the time it hits the coast.

"Most of the computer models have it continuing on a south-westerly track, sort of offshore from the west Kimberley coast and then eventually crossing over somewhere near the eastern Pilbara coast," he said.

"[It will cross the coast] probably during Friday night or early Saturday morning at this stage, possibly as a category three cyclone but that's the highest it will get."

Mr Puzey said rainfall was likely to be "quite significant" throughout the region, with expected totals between 50 and 150 millimetres, and isolated falls of up to 300mm in places.

"When it does move into the inland Pilbara and even through the Gascoyne, there's potential for heavy rainfalls as the then ex-tropical cyclone continues to move further south-west," he said.

"We might even have some effects felt here in Perth."

Extra emergency crews have been sent to Broome from Perth, and an evacuation centre has been set up at the Broome Recreation and Aquatic Centre.

The Pilbara Ports Authority began clearing the Port Hedland port on Thursday morning, with all vessels expected to be cleared before the cyclone reached the area.

More than 30 ships, mainly large iron ore carriers, were expected to be well out to sea by 6:30pm Thursday to avoid wild seas.

The Authority is monitoring the situation at the ports of Ashburton and Dampier.

Community weary but ready

Robert Singleton, a chef at Pardoo Roadhouse 150 kilometres north of Port Hedland, is in the direct path of the cyclone. He said the community had been making preparations.

"They're pretty much like, 'not again', pretty much over the cyclone seasons, but everyone gets together and helps each other," he said.

Winds are expected to reach up to 130kph in Pardoo and it could be hit with up to 150mm of rain on Friday.

Mr Singleton spent Thursday morning preparing and placing sandbags around the exterior of the roadhouse.

"The cyclone is expected to come right over the top of us, either to the east or the west," Mr Singleton said.

For places like Pardoo along this stretch of coastline, cyclone preparation is well engrained in their lives. The Pardoo Roadhouse has been preparing for the season for months.

"We clear off a lot of the rubbish, the bins, taking care of the trees, trimming them back," Mr Singleton explained.

The staff here will go into "lockdown" if the cyclone continues on its expected path.

"Some of us do stay here under shelter in the rooms and pretty much just wait it out, that's all we can really do."

Cyclone Joyce comes on the heels of , which crossed the coast near Broome two weeks ago, bringing strong winds and heavy rain to WA's Kimberley region.


© ABC 2018

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