New cyclone may form off WA, could hit Pilbara just weeks after Cyclone Veronica, BOM warns

Updated April 04, 2019 15:18:04

As the Pilbara coast recovers from severe Tropical Cyclone Veronica which flooded the region last week, another potential cyclone brewing in the Top End is threatening to wreak further havoc.

Key points:

  • The BOM says there’s a high chance of a cyclone off the Kimberley on Saturday
  • If the system does develop into a cyclone, it will be called Wallace
  • Forecasters say if it hits the Pilbara coast next week, the flooding will be “significant”

A tropical low formed about 500 kilometres north-north-east of Darwin yesterday and is forecast to move into waters off Western Australia.

“Over the next few days we’re expecting the system to move west-south-west and slowly develop,” Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) senior forecaster Matt Boterhoven said.

“By Friday, there’s a moderate chance of it developing into a tropical cyclone.

“Then on Saturday, there’s a high chance of it reaching tropical cyclone intensity while being over the waters north of the Kimberley coast, over the Browse Basin area.

“Once we get into the middle of next week it could get quite interesting around the Pilbara coast. The guidance is suggesting we could have another coastal impact.”

Cyclone will be called Wallace

If the system does develop into a cyclone, it will be called Wallace.

But the BOM has cautioned it was still too early to predict with certainty whether the potential cyclone would make landfall or exactly where it would track.

Its latest modelling suggests a potential crossing could take place on the west Pilbara coast late on Tuesday or early on Wednesday.

Cyclone Veronica stalled very close to the Pilbara coast for about 24 hours at category three intensity, dumping hundreds of millimetres of rain in the Pilbara and producing destructive winds between Port Hedland and Karratha.

Rivers, streams and waterways in the De Grey catchment reached the major flood level, leaving pastoralists fearing the damage bill to land and lost cattle could run into the millions of dollars.

Port Hedland received more than a year’s worth of rain in a matter of days, with many homes in the area evacuated after being cut off by floodwaters.

Pilbara could face ‘significant’ flooding

Mr Boterhoven said the legacy of Cyclone Veronica could amplify the impact if a new cyclone did hit the coast.

“If this system does develop into a cyclone and does hit the Pilbara coast, the soil is very saturated now because of all the heavy rainfall from Cyclone Veronica, so the flooding will be quite significant,” he said.

“We already saw very significant flooding with Veronica, but it would be a lot quicker to flood this time due to the high soil moisture content.

“It’s early days yet, [but] if it does form the environment is quite good, so there’s probably a better-than-an-even chance that it could be a severe tropical cyclone.”

On Thursday morning, the low is expected to cause squally thunderstorms in the Tiwi Islands, prompting the BOM to issue a warning for flash flooding and damaging winds.

The system could get close enough to the Kimberley over the weekend to produce a period of gales and heavy rain over coastal parts of the far north and north-west of the region.

Kimberley and Pilbara residents have been urged to keep up with the latest forecasts and warning information.

“It still is cyclone season, so residents need to monitor all the forecasts,” Mr Boterhoven said.

Topics: weather, cyclones, cyclone, disasters-and-accidents, broome-6725, perth-6000, wa, darwin-0800, nt

First posted April 04, 2019 09:02:46

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