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"People lined up at the bottle shop": How WA town is preparing for possible cyclone

Anthony Sharwood, Thursday April 8, 2021 - 18:46 EST

The West Australian coastal town of Geraldton is well south of the tropics and has never recorded a direct hit from a full-blown cyclone, excuse the pun.

But with the possibility of Cyclone Seroja impacting the large regional centre (population 37,600) towards the end of the weekend, locals are preparing in some unusual ways.

Image: Forecast position of Tropical Cyclone Seroja at landfall according to three different forecast models. The left and right images are north of Geraldton. The center one is just south. These forecasts may change in the coming days. 

Geraldton commercial real estate agent and dad Matt Poynton, 39, is Geraldton born and bred, and has lived there most of his life.

"No, we've never seen a cyclone before," he told Weatherzone. "I think in the last 50-odd years they've gotten close and there's been the odd occasion where there's been a bit of a storm warning and that sort of thing. But Geraldton seems to be in a bit of weather bubble and precipitation has a habit of going around us."

You can understand, then, why locals aren't exactly in panic mode yet.

But the threat of Cyclone Seroja is real, especially if it interacts with a nearby low pressure system in the Indian Ocean in a strange meteorological dance called the Fujiwhara Effect.

Despite these interactions, Seroja could still intensify from its current category one status to category two or three, and make a beeline for the West Australian coast well south of the tropics.

If that happens, Geraldton could well and truly be in the firing line. So how are locals preparing?

"Most people are taking it pretty seriously, but I reckon there are three types of people in town this week," Matt Poynton told us.

"There are people who are serious about it, buying bottled water, strapping down the trampoline, getting tea light candles.

"There are people ignoring it, going round saying, 'It probably won’t even rain.'"

"And there are people lining up at the bottle shop!"

You can understand those who are sceptical of the town being hit by Cyclone Seroja. Poynton says an elderly lady recently told him they’ve just endured the longest, driest summer she can remember.

  • Geraldton's year to date has indeed been dry, but not drier than usual.
  • The average rainfall from January to the end of April is 59.8 mm while 53.6 mm has been received so far this year.
  • But most of that rain fell in Jan and Feb, with less than a millimetre in March and in April so far.
  • April has also been more than a degree warmer than average to date.

That's why, despite the threat of a cyclone, Geraldton locals like Matt Poynton are still looking forward to this system in the hope it drops a decent amount of rain.

"A lot of people are saying it can get as windy as it likes, as long as a bit of rain comes out of it," he said.

For all tropical cyclone warnings, be sure to check the Bureau of Meteorology's special page here.

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