A cyclone warning has been issued for coastal areas of Western Australia, with Bureau of Meteorology forecasters expecting a tropical low off the coast of Broome to strengthen over the weekend into a category 3 storm.
Heavy rain and gusts of up to 100 kilometres per hour are expected to hit the WA coast between Kuri Bay and Broome this afternoon and further extend to De Grey north of Port Hedland by Sunday morning.
Forecaster Joe Courtney says the storm - currently a tropical low situated about 430 kilometres north of Broome - is slow moving but expected to intensify as it approaches the coast, developing into a "significant" cyclone that could make landfall on Tuesday.
"It's got a lot of work to do, but it does have a few days over water, so it has time to develop," he said.
Recent storms of similar intensity include Cyclone Rusty, which brought 200 kph winds to the Pilbara region of WA in February, and Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the US city of New Orleans in 2005.
Mr Courtney said while the storm was expected to hit in a relatively isolated region of the country, and could even bring rain relief to drought-affected pastoralists, it could still prove destructive to communities living in its path.
Cyclone Rusty forced mining giants Fortescue Metals and Atlas Iron to lock down all operations in Port Hedland, which handles a fifth of all sea-borne iron ore.
Rio Tinto also stopped ship loading at nearby Dampier and Cape Lambert, while several Aboriginal communities were evacuated and local schools were closed.
The State Emergency Service in WA says no community alerts have yet been issued.
The WA cyclone season begins in November and continues through to April.
The Pilbara coast experiences more cyclones than any other part of Australia, according to the BoM.
Since 1910, there have been 48 cyclones that have caused damaging wind gusts of 90 kph in the Karratha, Dampier and Roebourne region.
On average this equates to about one every two years.
About half of these cyclones have an impact equivalent to a category 1 cyclone.
© ABC 2013
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