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2 powerful cyclones spinning toward north Australian coast

Associated Press logo Associated Press 3/22/2019
In this image made from video taken on March 21, 2019, storm evacuees board an Australian Defence Force C-130 plane preparing to take off from Borroloola, Australia. Two powerful cyclones are spinning toward Australia's sparsely populated north where around 2,000 people have been evacuated from the east coast of the Northern Territory ahead of strong winds, mountainous waves and flooding rain. (Australian Broadcasting Corporation via AP) © The Associated Press In this image made from video taken on March 21, 2019, storm evacuees board an Australian Defence Force C-130 plane preparing to take off from Borroloola, Australia. Two powerful cyclones are spinning toward Australia's sparsely populated north where around 2,000 people have been evacuated from the east coast of the Northern Territory ahead of strong winds, mountainous waves and flooding rain. (Australian Broadcasting Corporation via AP)

CANBERRA, Australia — Two powerful cyclones are blowing toward Australia's sparsely populated north where around 2,000 people have been evacuated from the east coast of the Northern Territory ahead of strong winds, mountainous waves and flooding rain.

Cyclones are frequent in Australia's tropical north and rarely claim lives. But two such large storms as Cyclones Trevor and Veronica crossing land on the same weekend is rare.

Trevor is expected to cross the east shore of the Northern Territory on Saturday morning as a Category 4 storm. It had sustained winds of 130 kilometers per hour (80 mph) with gusts to 185 kph (115) Friday afternoon. Gusts of 275 kph (170 mph) are expected around the eye when the cyclone makes landfall, Bureau of Meteorology manager Todd Smith said on Friday.

The Northern Territory communities nearest the expected landfall were evacuated Thursday, most of the 2,000 or so residents going by road or defense cargo planes to the provincial capital, Darwin. Many also went to the inland city of Katherine.

Veronica is also expected to be a Category 4 when it crosses the coast of Western Australia state over Sunday night. Its sustained winds were 175 kph (110 mph) around midday Friday.

A Category 4 severe tropical cyclone is roughly similar to a Category 2 or 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale used in the U.S.

The last families left Borroloola by noon on Friday as they headed inland.

Speaking by phone from her family's car as they drove inland, Christine Sauer said only the local police and utilities workers remained in the community of about 900 people.

"They're about to switch off the power and water and they're leaving too," she said. "You're not going to sit there for a Category 4 cyclone."

Sauer and her family, who run the town's store and gas station, plan to sit the storm out at a friend's cattle station.

Veronica is expected to land somewhere between the iron ore mining towns of Karratha and Port Hedland.

Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported long lines of traffic waiting for gas in Karratha, residents sandbagging their homes and supermarket shelves being stripped bare by shoppers stockpiling provisions.

Emergency service officials are advising people who do not need to stay in Karratha to evacuate.

The Pilbara Ports Authority has cleared all large commercial vessels from the harbors and anchorages at Port Hedland, Ashburton and Port of Dampier.

The Western Australian Country Health Service said procedures were in place at health centers so they can continue operating.

Staffing, supplies including food and pharmaceuticals, and plans for high-risk patients have been prepared.

The last Category 4 cyclone to impact the Pilbara coast was Christine in December 2013.

Veronica is Pilbara's third tropical cyclone for the season, which is ending.

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