17 Mar 2012

Cyclone Lua hits Western Australia coast

9:58 pm on 17 March 2012

Severe Tropical Cyclone Lua has crossed Western Australia's Pilbara coast, bringing ferocious winds and rain to communities in its track.

Lua is whipping the coast at a sparsely populated area between Port Hedland and Broome on Saturday evening.

The category four system is bringing strong winds and rain.

SES volunteers are on standby in Port Hedland ready for the aftermath.

The Bureau of Meteorology says Lua will move further inland and gradually weaken.

It says gales are occurring in coastal areas between Port Hedland and Cape Leveque and will extend further inland later on Saturday, and possibly west to Whim Creek.

"Destructive winds to 150 kilometres per hour are possible to the east of Port Hedland to Bidyadanga and across the inland eastern Pilbara," a weather bureau statement read.

"Very destructive winds to 250km/h are forecast near the cyclone centre near the coast with gusts to 180km/h possible over the inland eastern Pilbara, including Marble Bar this evening."

As well as strong winds, Lua is also bringing heavy rain and a dangerous storm tide.

A red alert is in place for coastal communities between Bidyadanga to Port Hedland, including the towns of Port and South Hedland, Marble Bar, Nullagine, and communities at Yandeyarra and Warralong.

The alert also includes mining leases at Yarrie, Woodie Woodie, Nifty, Moly Mines, and Telfer.

Those on a red alert are effectively in lockdown and are being advised to remain in shelter or go to shelter immediately.

Lua is the fifth cyclone of the season, but by far the most severe, the ABC says.