Australia

WA cyclone Veronica brings 12-hour onslaught of wind, rain, storm tides

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Residents in Western Australia have been warned of the "big threat to life" as the destructive storm's slow pace wreaks havoc in the Pilbara region.

Residents have bunkered down as an unusually powerful and slow-moving cyclone hits parts of the West Australian coast.

Even those who have weathered previous cyclones are being warned to stay indoors because Cyclone Veronica "is different" from previous storms.

A red alert has been issued for residents along the Pilbara coast to find shelter and brace for destructive winds of up to 155km/h and wind gusts up to 220km/h.

Veronica hit the coastline of the Pilbara region between Dampier and Port Hedland on Sunday morning.

"All the advice is this is a massive cyclone and a big threat to life so therefore listen to the advice and stay inside," WA Premier Mark McGowan told reporters on Sunday.

"This is a very, very serious situation. People in that part of the world are used to cyclones but this one is different."

'Belting down'

The slow-moving system was downgraded to category three as it continued to move southeast at 8km/h, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

Port Hedland Mayor Camilo Blanco said the rain and winds dramatically intensified within a short period of time.

"The rain has petered off a bit but it was belting down," he said.

"The winds have picked up a massive amount. On social media, we've seen a few trees lifted out."

Concerns over cyclone surge

Karratha Mayor Peter Long said the strong southerly winds reached 120km/h and caused vegetation damage and destroyed a shed.

"I'm concerned about the cyclone surge because it's a Spring tide which is the highest tide of the year so we're expecting a surge of 2-5 metres," he said.

The Departments of Fire and Emergency Services' urges residents in red alert zones to seek shelter in the strongest, safest parts of their homes and to stay clear of doors or windows.

They said people would need to stay in shelter longer than usual due to the destructive storm's slow pace.

Cyclone Veronica
NASA image showing Cyclone Veronica (L) seen over Western Australia and Cyclone Trevor over Northern Territory (top-R).
NASA Earth Observatory

People warned against taking selfies

The premier, commenting on reports people had ventured into the storm for selfies, warned against "stupid" behaviour.

"Dont take matters into your own hands," Mr McGowan said.

"Don't risk your own life, don't risk the lives of your children, don't risk the life of others."

12 hours or more of destructive winds

Veronica will move across coastal towns including Port Hedland, Karratha and Pannawonica, with wind speeds expected to exceed 165km/h later on Sunday.

Widespread heavy rainfall and very dangerous storm tides, causing very dangerous coastal inundation, are also expected.

Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster James Ashley said Veronica was unique because it was a slow-moving system that would bring a long period of destruction.

"We are expecting a prolonged period - 12 hours or more - of destructive winds near the core of the cyclone."

Veronica is the third tropical cyclone this season and it comes as cyclone Trevor whips through the Northern Territory.

The last category four tropical cyclone to hit the WA coast was Christine in December 2013.

Satellite image of tropical cyclone Veronica.
A NASA satellite image of tropical cyclone Veronica approaching the northwest coast of WA.
AAP

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