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Red alert remains for Cyclone Veronica as destructive winds, flooding continue

ABC News logo ABC News 24/03/2019 By Dave Weber

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Cyclone Veronica has weakened overnight to a category two system, but communities in the area remain on red alert as destructive winds continue to batter WA's Pilbara coast.

The cyclone is tracking westward along the coast, causing heavy rainfall and flooding between Karratha and Port Hedland.

Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) spokesman Darragh Wills said the danger was not yet over.

"It is still a cyclone, and there is still the red alert in force," he said.

"It is forecast to track west, so the impact will move along the coast along with that although it is moving very slowly.

"If it moved more quickly the rain would go along with it, but it's in the one spot more or less and the rain just keeps falling, so you'll get all that rain in a smaller area."

Power outages reported

Mr Wills said DFES had received no reports of injuries, but there had been isolated power outages and minor damage.

He, like everyone else in the region, had been inside during the night.

"People do need to stay inside. We will be assessing that in Port Hedland the morning, and doing some damage assessments and so on to see if we can lift it, but at this stage is it still a red alert," Mr Wills said.

"People will also need to be aware of their surroundings and be watchful of anything that might be a safety hazard."

Destructive winds buffer Port Hedland as Cyclone Veronica bears down. © Provided by ABC News Destructive winds buffer Port Hedland as Cyclone Veronica bears down. Residents of Port Hedland and outlying communities have been on red alert since Saturday night,while a yellow alert is current for Barrow Island, Pannawonica and Mardi.

Many have been sheltering in evacuation centres set up in South Hedland and Karratha.

Veronica is likely to maintain cyclone intensity for much of the day.

Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Matt Boterhoven said it was still packing strong winds.

"Currently near the centre we're looking at mean winds of a hundred kilometres per hour but gusts up to 140 kilometres per hour," he said.

"When it does track along the Pilbara coast this afternoon, evening, [it] could track very close to Karratha and Dampier so they could see some damaging winds develop."

Mr Boterhoven said it could cross the coast near Dampier, but said the conditions for Veronica to maintain or increase in intensity were unfavourable.

"If you have a look at the satellite imagery you'll see the upper level cloud has been sheared off the low level centre," he said.

Winds of up to 125 kilometres an hour were likely to continue throughout Monday morning, and major flooding is expected along the Pilbara coast and adjacent inland areas.

A dangerous storm tide with damaging waves and coastal inundation are forecast east of Karratha early this afternoon, prompting a warning from DFES that properties in Port Hedland are at risk of inundation.

Schools in the region will be closed today, including those in Port Hedland, South Hedland, Karratha, Marble Bar, Roebourne, Wickham and Dampier.

A number of roads are also closed, including a large stretch of the North West Coastal Highway.

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