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La Nina to drive wetter and windier cyclone season for north-west WA

By Vanessa Mills, Monday October 12, 2020 - 15:47 EDT
Audience submitted image
Australia's north-west could be in for a particularly tempestuous summer. - Audience submitted

North-western Australia is being warned of an early start to the cyclone season, as well as more of the storms impacting the coast.

Bureau of Meteorology senior meteorologist James Ashley said the Pacific Ocean's La Nina weather system would impact the north-west cyclone season this summer.

"Typically we expect cyclones at Christmas or New Year [in northern Western Australia]," Mr Ashley said.

"But in La Nina that's coming three weeks earlier, so the start of December."

The influence of La Nina, , shifts the focus of tropical cyclone activity westwards, into the Indonesian archipelago.

It also means above-average rainfall for northern and eastern Australia and the earlier arrival of the monsoon.

"The Indian Ocean temperatures are above average as well," Mr Ashley said.

"The water's already warm enough to generate cyclone activity, so that helps with the start of the cyclone season."

It only takes one

In February, Cyclone Damien was the most significant system to impact the Karratha area since Cyclone John in 1999.

Damien produced wind gusts of 194 kilometres per hour– the strongest recorded at Karratha since Cyclone Chloe in 1984 – in what was an otherwise below-average season for cyclones.

Kimberley Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) superintendent Grant Pipe said it was a reminder that a cyclone could hit regardless of the forecast.

"It only takes one cyclone to have an impact on a community," Mr Pipe said.

"We'd really urge people to start looking at their properties and not leave it to the last minute."

With an earlier monsoon and an above average number of cyclonic systems predicted, flooding is also a concern for authorities.

"Get ready for what could be a wetter-than-normal wet season," Mr Pipe said.

Coronavirus and cyclones

DFES wants people in flood-prone areas to prepare an emergency relocation kit and understand the risks of driving in wet weather.

COVID-19 has also affected preparations for this summer's cyclone season.

Emergency services are preparing for the possibility of more people on the roads and at caravan parks who are not familiar with cyclone and flooding precautions.

There is also planning underway into how emergency welfare centres will operate while coronavirus infection remains a risk.

"We're working with other agencies on that, but it's a shared responsibility," Mr Pipe said.

"If people are rolling up to relocation centres unwell and advising us if they're not feeling so well, then we can put parameters in place."


© ABC 2020

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