Towns across the Pilbara are preparing for Tropical Cyclone Veronica, after it increased to a category four overnight, with warnings it could increase to category five before crossing the coast.
Veronica is currently sitting 500km off the WA coast, north-west of Port Hedland, and is moving south-west at 7km/h.
Bureau of Meteorology State Manager James Ashley said intense rainfall, strong winds and a destructive storm surge are all expected as the storm crosses the coast as early as tomorrow evening.
“A category four system is when wind gusts are up around 250km/h, and the nature of the system being so slow-moving means those winds are going to be felt in an extended period,” he said.
“Rainfall is going to be exceptionally heavy and the risk of a significant storm tide is heightened because of the slow motion.”
Department of Fire and Emergency Services Chief Superintendent Paul Carr said the department is concerned about a lack of preparedness among affected residents.
“We need to make sure that the message goes out to the public that they are a vital element that we rely on when preparing for this event,” he said.
“There hasn’t been a cyclone up in that part of the world for some time, so we are concerned about some level of complacency sweeping in.”
Residents in towns such as Port Hedland, Karratha and Dampier have been making preparations for Veronica after a blue alert was issued yesterday.
Port Hedland resident and RSL Community Shop manager Robyn Middleton said conditions were currently fine but it is always a good idea to be ready.
“From my observations everyone is getting used to the fact that yes, alright, we all have to rush out and buy water,” she said.
“But other than that, unless you’re a newcomer to the area and have never been through a cyclone before, everyone’s taking it in their stead and waiting to see what happens next.”
Mr Carr had a word of advice for those in affected areas.
“The message that’s going out to the community, and I need to reinforce that today, is – be prepared.”
“Don’t expect that if you’ve been through a cyclone before, that this one will be the same as those previously.
“Listen to what the warnings are and start preparing your actions now.
Both BOM and DFES advise residents to have battery-powered devices charged in case of power failures, avoid crossing flooded roads, tie down loose objects and avoid going outside.