Tropical Cyclone Seroja: DFES says North West tourists must return home now before cyclone hits
Emergency service personnel are urging Mid West holiday makers to return home now before it becomes unsafe to do so, with Shark Bay, Kalbarri and Mullewa identified as areas at particular risk of cyclone damage.
The category 1 tropical cyclone is expected to gradually intensify as it tracks to the south-west over open waters today, where it will then accelerate to the coast and hit Carnarvon and Jurien Bay by the end of the week.
Heavy to intense rainfall will likely cause flash flooding for the area, with abnormally high tides having the potential to cause serious flooding along the coast in Denham and Shark Bay.
Department of Fire and Emergency Services incident controller Graham Sears addressed the media from the State Emergency Services hub near Geraldton Airport this afternoon,saying travellers must return home from WA’s North West now to avoid being affected by Tropical Cyclone Seroja.
“What we are asking is that community members that are up in the region that are holidaying, if they could make plans to leave the area and head home if required and make their way down the coast,” he said.
“We are asking people to consider that now and probably the latest at lunchtime tomorrow.
“We are asking people to leave early to ensure there isn’t a build-up of traffic on the road and they have the ability to get home in a safe manner.”
Mr Sears said DFES was concerned about potential “wind and storm surge” in Shark Bay, with some inland localities also identified as areas likely to be affected by cyclonic winds.
“The forecast trackmap at the moment shows the cyclone going over the top of Kalbarri through Northampton into Mullewa…that is a concern for us at this stage,” he said,
“It is predicated at this point to go in as a category two inland as far as Mullewa…we are looking at that and planning for those contingencies.”
Mr Sears said some Geraldton buildings were not built to withstand cyclonic winds and urged residents to make their dwellings as safe as possible.
“Some of the buildings in Geraldton aren’t to that standard and that is of a concern to us if we do get heavy winds,” he said.
“We ask people start preparing their houses to make sure they are ready for the wind that is expected and the weather conditions associated with the cyclone.
“If there is any debris or things need tying down, to prepare them well and truly before to make sure none of these objects can get thrown around as missiles in the cyclonic winds.
“Head all the warnings we are giving out on the Emergency WA website.”
Mr Sears said power outages associated with the cyclone were a “strong possibility”.
“(Power outages) are generally the case but we work very closely with Western Power and all the major utilities to ensure those services are not disrupted for a long period of time,” he said.
Residents living along the coast from Coral Bay to Lancelin are on a blue alert and have been told to start preparing their houses for the dangerous weather.
The eye of the cyclone is forecast to reach wind speeds larger than 125km/h, bringing destructive winds to the coastline.
Today caravan park visitors were packing up and preparing to leave Geraldton and surrounds before the wild weather arrives.
Kalbarri Anchorage Caravan Park is not officially closed but are advising travellers not to come.
A park spokeswoman said most people had already packed up and left and travellers who were expected to arrive today had postponed their bookings to next week.
She said some people travelling from WA’s North West had stopped to rest for the night before making their way home tomorrow.
The park would officially close if a yellow alert is issued.
Perth resident Kimberley Howes was rolling up sleeping bags and securing bikes to the car at Sunset Beach Holiday Park after making the decision to cut her holiday short due to the weather forecast.
Mandurah couple Angela and Arthur Cunningham also decided to leave Geraldton a day early as a precaution.
“Better to be safe than sorry,” Mrs Cunningham said.
Supermarkets were full of activity as residents stocked up on bottled water, batteries, cans of baked beans, soup and spaghetti and pet food.
Toilet paper stock numbers had not dropped to peak COVID-19 panic buying levels and shoppers did not appear to be loading their trolleys with more than they needed when the Geraldton Guardian visited Coles and Woolworths this morning.
Parks and Wildlife Service have issued the closure of Dirk Hartog Island National Park and Francois Peron National Park as of today.
The Houtman Abrolhos Islands National Park, Kalbarri National Park Wanagarren Nature Reserve, Karda Reserve, Lucky Bay (Kalbarri), Edel Land National Park and Coalseam Conservation Park will be closed from 10am tomorrow.
The City of Greater Geraldton is also taking steps to prepare for the cyclone, with the Ellendale Pool closed until further notice and 1500 sand bags to be deployed to the laydown area opposite the caravan park at Point Moore this afternoon.
Access tracks have been closed at Point Moore and beach sand has been mounded up to mitigate storm surge.
At Tarcoola Beach, the South Pipe stormwater outfall will be cleared to accommodate heavy rainfalls.
The Mullewa Caravan Park will be closed until further notice.
City personnel were also seen removing a swimming pontoon off Champion Beach, and yesterday took down shade sails from all coastal playgrounds.
But some locals thought the Geraldton community was not taking the threat of the cyclone seriously.
Geraldton resident Peter Thatcher was clearing his front garden of potential hazards this morning and said other locals appeared too complacent about the possibility of Cyclone Seroja passing close to the City.
“Looking at the track at the moment we’re a bullseye — right in the path,” he said.
“I’ve been here in Geraldton for 30 years and we haven’t had one come on directly.”
Ensuring emergency kits are ready to go, and checking in with neighbours and friends are just some of the safety precautions DFES advises residents to do.
North West Coastal Highway will possibly close from todayand travellers north of Minilya will not be able to travel south.
DFES alerts drivers to reduce their speed and take caution when travelling through the areas.
“Never drive into water of unknown depth and current,” DFES warned.
Those on vessels in the water or on an Island off the coast between Onslow and Jurien Bay, including Abrolhos Islands, should prepare to move to a safe location immediately.
The Weather Bureau said the system could reach a ‘severe strength’ category three as it moves inland.
“Cyclones that are formed towards the end of the season have a greater chance of becoming severe because they tend to form further in the north, giving them more time to develop,” a Bureau of Meteorology statement said.
Visit Emergency WA for the latest updates.
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