11 Jan 2013

Cyclone off Western Australia upgraded

1:24 pm on 11 January 2013

Tropical Cyclone Narelle has been upgraded to a category four as it moves closer to the coast of northern Western Australia.

The Bureau of Meteorology said a cyclone warning remains in place for coastal areas from Whim Creek to Coral Bay, including Karratha, Dampier, Onslow and Exmouth.

AAP reports that at 2am WST on Friday, Narelle was estimated to be 570km north of Exmouth and 515km north northwest of Karratha and moving southwest at 16km/h.

Gales with gusts to 100km/h are expected to develop in coastal areas between Whim Creek and Exmouth during Friday afternoon, then extend south to Coral Bay on Saturday morning.

Residents on the Pilbara coast are being warned to prepare for possibly destructive wind gusts over 130km/h overnight on Saturday.

Thunderstorm activity is also expected to increase about the Pilbara coast on Friday

AAP reports iron ore ports at Cape Lambert and Dampier are closing as a precaution and the Stag and Van Gogh oil fields closed on Thursday. Chevron is also getting ready to evacuate personnel from Barrow Island.

"The worst thing people can do is underestimate the power of a cyclone,'' said WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch on Thursday.

''Seven people died as a result of Cyclone Bobby in February 1995, and three more lives were lost during Cyclone George in March 2007," Mr McCulloch said.