'Destructive' cyclone Veronica to cross WA coast
The category four system was still hundreds of kilometres off Port Hedland yesterday afternoon, with predictions it would cross the coast today.
"Very destructive wind gusts over 165km/h are expected near the cyclone's centre as it approaches the coast," Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster James Ashley said.
Gales were expected along the Pilbara coast between Pardoo and Mardie with winds to increase overnight as the cyclone moved closer.
The forecaster said Veronica was unique because it was a slow-moving system that would bring a prolonged period of destructive winds and heavy rain.
"We are expecting a prolonged period – 12 hours or more – of destructive winds near the core of the cyclone, we're expecting a prolonged period of heavy rainfall so flooding is going to be an issue," Mr Ashley said.
"We're expecting the potential for very dangerous storm surge as the tropical cyclone pushes water up against the low lying coastal areas."
Storm surges are most likely at Port Hedland and surrounding communities with people in the area being provided with surge maps to prepare.
Western Australia's fire and emergency services chief superintendent praised the community for their response to the cyclone but said it was a significant event.
"We are looking down the barrel of a significant tropical cyclone impact," chief superintendent Paul Carr said.
"The storm surge impact is of concern to us. It's very serious," he said.
He said the surge was from seawater forced inland because of the powerful cyclone and could inundate communities, and often carried debris.
Rain has been falling in the region, and rivers are expected to rise significantly. An initial flood warning has been issued for coastal rivers in the region.
A number of roads are set to be closed from midday yesterday, including portions of North West Coastal Highway, Great Northern Highway and Karratha Tom Price Road.
A Cyclone Red Alert has been issued for Pardoo to Whim Creek extending east but not including Marble Bar in the Pilbara.
People are advised to remain inside and shelter, keep their emergency kit and to stay away from doors and windows.
People in the Port Hedland area have been urged to check storm surge modelling maps and start preparing to relocate to a safer place if affected.
The system is expected to remain a category four before weakening to a category two tomorrow.
The last category four tropical cyclone to impact the WA coast was Christine in December 2013.
Veronica is the third tropical cyclone for the season.
© AAP 2019