Cyclone Olwyn lashes coast with 195km/h winds
Residents in Perth and the South West are being urged to prepare for dangerous weather as Cyclone Olwyn moves south.
The storm will no longer officially be a cyclone when it reaches Perth tomorrow but the Bureau of Meteorology said it could still pose a danger.
Olwyn lost some of its punch this evening and was downgraded to a Category Two system as it continued to track down the coast past Denham.
Carnarvon felt the full force of the storm this afternoon with winds gusting up to 205km/h. The full extent of the damage is not expected to be known until daylight tomorrow.
A red alert is in place for people in or near the coastal communities between Cape Cuvier and Denham.
That includes Useless Loop, Overlander Roadhouse, Billabong Roadhouse, Carnarvon and Wooroomel.
A yellow alert is current for people in or near Kalbarri, including Port Gergory and Horrocks.
The system is weakening as it moves south, but is expected to take heavy rain and squally winds into southern parts of the state.
Destructive winds, storm tides and flooding could happen in some areas.
Some schools and national parks have been closed, while emergency relocation centres have been established in Kalbarri, Exmouth and Carnarvon
DFES Assistant Commissioner Darren Klemm said people in Geraldton should get ready now by preparing their homes and ensuring they have emergency supplies as the cyclone passes.
"People in Geraldton should be aware that shops could close early this evening, so you should stock up on essential provisions this afternoon.
Weather alerts The latest warnings for WA
Weather radar See the storm approach
"If a Yellow Alert is issued for Geraldton, people will need to stay indoors and businesses will close.”
People in Perth should clear their gutters and ensure any loose items are secured.
"Anyone planning a weekend camping or road trip should reconsider, and anyone already camping should relocate to a safe area,” Mr Klemm said.
Bureau of Meteorology WA Regional Director Mike Bergin said there was a possibility of heavy rainfall, damaging squally winds and abnormally high tides in Perth.
"There is particular concern for Geraldton, which has not seen a cyclone since Cyclone Hazel in 1979,” he said.
There are fears Carnarvon, where water levels are already high, could experience serious flooding when the category three cyclone reaches the town about 1pm.
SES volunteers have been called out to 10 homes in Exmouth where destructive winds damaged roofs overnight.
There are unconfirmed reports of property damage in Onslow and Coral Bay after the cyclone passed through this morning.
The extent of the damage is not yet clear, but it is understood the workers’ caravan park in Coral Bay copped the brunt of it.
Weather radar See Olwyn approach the coast
Communities south to Jurien Bay have been reminded to heed emergency alerts as reports emerge of some residents being under prepared.
“Apparently some communities are being caught unaware,” a Department of Fire and Emergency Services spokesman said.
“I don’t know how that’s possible.
“The alert’s still red and we really want people to listen to those warnings and get prepared.”
Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Bob Tarr said the cyclone was still looking “pretty impressive” on satellite images.
He said it was unusual for a system to track so close to the coastline for so long.
“It could be 100km further to the west over the ocean or 100km to the east inland and weakening,” he said.
“It just so happens that this one has recurved so that it is almost tracing the coastline.
“In terms of the strength of the cyclone, it does make it a little bit more problematic because it can maintain its intensity over water.”
Mr Tarr said Carnarvon and Denham would get “hit pretty hard” before the cyclone weakens gradually overnight.
He said it was important for all residents within the warning areas to take the threat seriously.
“When there is a red alert, which we have all the way down to Geraldton and Jurien Bay, you do need to heed that,” he said.
“People further south might not be as experienced with cyclone awareness.
“You tend to have hardier vegetation further north as well, so that’s a consideration for people living to the south.”
Olwyn could still be a category 1 cyclone when it reaches Geraldton at 4am tomorrow morning.
Dangerous wind gusts of up to 195km forced parts of the North West into lockdown.
Major roads in the region are closed, including the North West Coastal Highway from Pannawonica Road to Kalbarri Road, Shark Bay Road, Minilya-Exmouth Road, Coral Bay Road, Onslow Road and Kalbarri Road.
Schools in Exmouth, Onslow, Shark Bay and Carnarvon will remain closed today, as will Cape Range National Park, Francois Peron National Park and Dirk Island National Park.
Olywn is moving south at 25kmh and is expected to weaken later this morning.
It will bring heavy rain to southern parts of WA.
There is a chance of thunderstorms in the metropolitan area from this afternoon after a forecast maximum of 34C.
Those thunderstorms are tipped to bring heavy rain and potentially damaging winds.
Showers are expected to continue on Sunday and into next week.
Learmonth Airport, 35km south of Exmouth, has recorded 122.2mm of rain overnight and wind gusts of 180kmh.
The strongest winds hit Learmonth about 1.30am.
Seven News reporter Geof Parry said trees in Exmouth were stripped as fierce winds hit the town.
The town was still on red alert earlier this morning.
Very destructive winds with gusts over 165km/h are likely near Exmouth, Coral Bay and surrounding areas on Friday morning, the Weather Bureau said.
It said wind gusts to 180km/h had been experienced at Learmonth, and that very destructive winds could extend to Cape Cuvier and Carnarvon during Friday morning.
Residents between Mardie around to Cape Cuvier, including Exmouth, Onslow and Coral Bay, are specifically warned of a potential very dangerous storm tide.
The mining union has accused US energy company Chevron of failing to evacuate workers from the Gorgon gas project, despite the cyclone tracking towards the region.
CFMEU WA state secretary Mick Buchan told ABC the energy giant should have organised to evacuate workers earlier from Barrow Island, off WA's northwest coast.
He said the company had "crammed 1600 additional personnel" into common areas.
Yesterday DFES issued a red alert at 6.30pm and advised there was a threat to lives and homes, with residents in or near the coastal communities of Mardie to Onslow, excluding Pannawonica, needing to take action.
Residents between Mardie and Exmouth were also specifically warned of the potential of a “very dangerous storm tide” as the cyclone centre crosses the coast with tides likely to “rise significantly above the normal high tide mark”.
Hundreds of Chevron workers are stranded on Barrow Island where they will remain until the cyclone passes.
A Chevron spokesman said a rigorous cyclone preparation plan was in place on the island. All workers and contractors would shelter in cyclone-rated accommodation, Chevron said.
One worker on the island said he was still in his donga and said the conditions “weren’t that bad at the moment”, and that he had not yet received any communication that he was to be moved to the evacuation centre.
Areas from Geraldton to Jurien Bay, extending inland to Paynes Find, are within the cyclone watch zone, but the warning has been cancelled for the area from Whim Creek to Roebourne.
The remnants of cyclone Olwyn are also expected to be felt in Perth on Saturday when about 50mm is expected in a cool change for the city.
Residents in low lying areas of Onslow were yesterday told to prepare to relocate as the cyclone approaches.
People in Cameron Avenue, Second Avenue, Hospital Avenue and Bidan Street were warned a storm surge could affect their homes.
State Emergency Service volunteers were going door-to-door to notify the public.
The residents were advised to pack a relocation kit with warm clothes, bedding, valuables and important papers, an emergency kit, check neighbours are aware of the warning, identify their nominated welfare centre and the safest way to get there, know where your keys are, ensure family members are wearing suitable clothing, and follow directions of emergency service personnel.
Pilbara Ports Authority said the ports of Dampier - Rio Tinto's export hub - and Ashburton closed on Thursday morning.
All Dampier anchorages are closed to new arrivals with the exception of vessels going to their designated cyclone moorings and small vessels seeking safe haven.
The ports will remain closed until further advice from Pilbara Ports Authority harbour masters.
There was no significant impact on operations at Port Hedland, a spokeswoman said.
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