UPDATE 4pm: People living in coastal communities between Broome and Whim Creek including Port Hedland, South Hedland and Broome have been placed on BLUE ALERT and are advised to prepare for cyclonic weather.
The FESA State Emergency Service recommends organising an emergency kit including first aid kit, torch, portable radio, spare batteries, food and water.
Tropical Cyclone Lua has moved slowly over the last few hours but should accelerate to the southeast during Friday and early morning Saturday, towards the east Pilbara coast.
Lua is expected to intensify into a severe tropical cyclone tonight and remain severe through to landfall.
Gales are expected to develop during Friday or early Saturday between Mardie and Bidyadanga as the cyclone approaches the coast. Gales are expected to extend to coastal areas between Cape Leveque and Bidayadanga during Saturday and then to inland eastern Pilbara areas later on Saturday.
Very destructive winds with wind gusts in excess of 170 kilometres per hour are expected to develop in coastal areas near the centre of the cyclone during Saturday.
Heavy rainfall is also expected in coastal areas of the east Pilbara and west Kimberley during Thursday and Friday.
Pilbara and Kimberley stations battered by Tropical Cyclone Laurence in 2009 are bracing for a repeat performance as the rapidly intensifying Tropical Cyclone Lua bears down on the WA coast.
Emergency services say people living in and around Cape Leveque, Lennard River, Fitzroy River and Isdell River in the Kimberley should prepare for flooding in the next 24 hours.
The Bureau of Meteorology said isolated rainfall of up to 90mm had been reported in the West Kimberley catchments to 9am.
Rainfall of about 50mm is expected over the catchments for the next 24 hours with isolated totals of up to 150mm possible near the West Kimberley coast.
Stream rises with the potential for areas of minor flooding to develop are expected along the West Kimberley coast.
There is no immediate danger, but residents are advised to watch for changes in water levels so they are ready to relocate.
The closest town is Marble Bar, 140km to the south. But when it crossed the coast in almost the same spot on December 21, 2009, Category 5 Laurence smashed its way through Mandora, Pardoo and Wallal Downs stations and Eighty Mile Beach Caravan Park.
It destroyed buildings, killed cattle, flattened trees, burst water tanks and ripped roofs off houses with winds that reached 285km/h.
Robyn Forrester, whose husband manages Wallal Downs Station, visited the station two days after Laurence struck in 2009. Today, she was nervously preparing for the cyclone’s arrival.
“I’m doing all the preparation as best we can to make sure the cattle are safe and all the equipment is tidied up,” she said.
She said the devastation from Laurence was still evident today: “It almost destroyed the place – buildings were lost, cattle were lost,” she said.
“This cyclone is predicted to be the same severity … we are fully aware that it can change course but we’ve just got to be prepared.
“The last one was tracking down the coast and then suddenly ducked in and wiped everything out.”
Eighty Mile Beach Caravan Park caretaker Peter Maynard said there were no residents to be evacuated and six staff on site were ready to evacuate if necessary.
When Cyclone Laurence passed through in 2009, it had “flattened the place”, he said.
Marlene Wi, of the Sandfire Roadhouse 290km north of Port Hedland, said its seven full-time residents weren’t unduly worried at the moment, as the weather was still only overcast with lightly spitting rain.
However, road travellers who passed through were being given regular updates on weather conditions from the bureau by the ambulance driver as they passed through.
“I think Saturday’s going to be the day to worry, by the look of it,” she said. “FESA have advised there’s no community alerts at present for communities between Mardie and Cape Leveque.”
Pardoo Roadhouse, Tavern and Caravan Park manager Janet Robb said staff would be evacuated once Lua drew closer, but she and partner Ian Badger would stay behind.
“We’ve got a sea container we can access if it gets bad,” she said. “Our staff will be relocated to wherever they can be accommodated.”
She said discussions with the Fire and Emergency Services Authority dad left her nervous about cyclone Lua.
“I’ve just had FESA on the phone and they’re worried, so we are too,” Ms Robb said. “(They’re saying) that this could be huge, even in comparison to Laurence.”
Despite residing in one of the most cyclone-prone areas on the planet, Ms Robb said it was not something she had become accustomed to: “I don’t think you can ever get used to it,” she said.
A raft of events in Port Hedland have been cancelled in anticipation of Lua, including the opening of a new $13.5m water park by Regional Development Minister Brendon Grylls on Saturday.
Events commemorating the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the SS Koombana off the Port Hedland coast have been cancelled.