January 12, 2012 – Port Headland, Australia Battered by Cyclone Heidi: Port Hedland residents are emerging from their homes after being battered by 130km/h (81 MPH) winds and torrential rain brought on by Tropical Cyclone Heidi, which crossed the West Australian coast early this morning. The Category Two cyclone crossed the coast 10km (6 miles) east of Port Hedland at a 4am (WST), bringing wind gusts up to 131km/h (81 MPH) and dumping 128mm (5 inches) of rain on the town by 9am (WST). The heaviest downpour was at Wallal Downs where 166mm (6.5 inches) fell. Heidi has been downgraded to a Category One cyclone and was moving south-southwest at 12km/h (7.5 MPH) about 9:30AM (WST). The extent of damage to the town is yet to be assessed but initial reports suggest a number of trees have been uprooted. A red alert is still in place for coastal areas from Pardoo to Whim Creek, including Port Hedland and South Hedland, where residents have been told to remain indoors. However, the warning from Dampier to Whim Creek, including Roebourne, Point Samson and Karratha, has been cancelled. Port Hedland mayor Kelly Howlett said that although the intensity of the wind was lessening, there was lots of rain. “Some people have had flooding in their roofs, and electrical faults,” she said. “There are about 2,000 houses without power at the moment and lots of trees have fallen down.” Ms. Howlett said the cyclone was not as disastrous as Cyclone George in 2007, which was a category 5 and killed three people. The Bureau of Meteorology said gales with gusts of up to 120km/h (75 MPH) were still occurring in some areas. Heavy rainfall up to 250mm (9.8 inches) was likely across the central and eastern Pilbara. Tides along the Pilbara coast would be higher than normal although the threat of a dangerous storm tide had now passed, the bureau said. A flood warning had been issued for the Pilbara coastal streams between Port Hedland and Karratha. Port Hedland’s airport and bulk export port remained closed. Mining firms across the region have sent home all non-essential workers. Tropical cyclone Heidi started making landfall around 4:30AM WST (7:30AM AEDT), bringing winds gusts of up to 140km/h (87 MPH). Noel Puzey from the WA Cyclone warning center told Sky News that Heidi crossed the coast about 10km (6 miles) to the east of Port Hedland, and was moving south. Mr. Puzey said 130km/h (81 MPH) gusts were recorded at the airport and 90mm (3.5 inches) of rain had fallen before the crossing. “Wind gusts were still largely in the 80-90km/h (50 to 56 MPH) range, but would weaken as Heidi moved south,” he said. The cyclone was in the Category Two range, but once it hit was expected to be downgraded to a Category One storm again. Peter Widdup, who lives in a local caravan park, said the noise from the wind and rain overnight was “quite horrendous”. “Everyone in the caravan park has their vans secured with chains and straps so you have no chance of flying away,” he said. ”The noises (Heidi) was making were very, very frightening,” he state. Perth Airport advised passengers planning travel to or from the north-west of Western Australia that some flights have been cancelled due to the cyclone. Flights affected include those to and from Cloud break, Port Hedland and Karratha. Port Hedland Port Authority spokesman Steed Farrell said the port had activated its cyclone contingency plan at 4pm (WST) yesterday in preparation for the wild weather. “We cleared inbound traffic into the port and cleared the port of vessels that needed to get out,” he said. “There was enough risk to activate the plan and all non-essential staff will go home.” Mr. Farrell said the port would wait for word from the weather bureau before resuming operations.
The Master of Disaster