UPDATE: After forcing Pilbara towns into lockdown, Tropical Cyclone Christine has been labelled one of the State's most significant cyclones of the past decade.
Residents in Wickham and Roebourne were hit hard by Christine overnight, but the full extent of the damage is not yet known.
Pilbara towns and communities were in lockdown after the category 3 system battered the coast with 220km/h winds and heavy rain overnight.
Christine crossed the coast between Whim Creek and Roebourne just after midnight, forcing people to take shelter as strong winds, heavy rain and dangerous tides struck the region.
The Bureau of Meteorology announced that at 2pm Christine had been downgraded to a category 1 cyclone system and was expected to weaken to a tropical low by tomorrow morning.
The cyclone is estimated to be 45km south-west of Paraburdoo and 315km south of Karratha and moving south-south-east at 26km/h.
A cyclone warning is current for inland parts of the Pilbara including Paraburdoo, Tom Price and Newman and is extending into central WA to include Three Rivers, Wiluna and Leinster.
"Christine has weakened to a category 1 cyclone as it moves over southern parts of the Pilbara and into the north-east Gascoyne," the Bureau said.
"Christine has started moving south-south-east and is expected to accelerate towards the south-east tonight."
A red alert remains in place for people in Tom Price and Paraburdoo.
Damaging winds with gusts up to 120km/h are possible near the cyclone centre.
"Gales with wind gusts to 100km/h are occurring in southern parts of the Pilbara and should extend into the eastern Gascoyne, far western Interior and the far northern Goldfields this afternoon and evening before the cyclone weakens overnight," the Bureau said.
"After the system weakens below tropical cyclone intensity overnight, severe winds are likely to continue on the north-eastern side of the system during Wednesday as it moves quickly across south-eastern WA.
"Heavy rainfall is possible near the cyclone track and flood warnings have been issued for the Pilbara."
Although the rain continues to fall, winds are expected to present significant fire danger tomorrow, with extreme to catastrophic fire warnings issued.
Mike Bergin, from the Bureau of Meteorology, said Roebourne had experienced the eye of the storm with 172km/h winds and 134mm of rain recorded to 9am today.
Department of Fire and Emergency Services assistant commissioner Chris Arnoll said they had received 56 calls for help from people, mainly for felled trees and outdoor damage including roofs being ripped off properties.
Horizon Power managing director Frank Tudor said: "This is one of the most significant cyclones we have seen over the last 10 years, particularly in the damage it caused."
Thousands of homes and businesses lost power in Roebourne, Karratha, Port Hedland and Point Samson.
There are more than 7000 customers still in the dark in Karratha, but power is expected to be restored today.
More extensive damage means people in Point Samson will need to wait another day for power to be restored because of a damaged overhead line.
Three overhead power lines have been damaged in Roebourne, and it will take a few days for power to be restored.
RED ALERT: A red alert remains in place for people in or near Tom Price and Paraburdoo. People in those areas are warned to immediately head to shelter and stay indoors away from doors and windows.Residents in affected areas should get ready to move to the strongest, safest part of their house.BLUE ALERT: People in or near Newman and inland to the Collier Ranges and Three Rivers including Kumarina and east to Granite Peak and south-west to Wiluna, need to prepare for cyclonic weather and organise an emergency kit including a first-aid kit, torch, portable radio, spare batteries, food and water.ALL CLEAR WITH CAUTION: People between De Grey and Mardie including Marble Bar, Port Hedland, South Hedland, Whim Creek, Roebourne, Wickham, Point Samson, Karratha, Dampier and Pannawonica are advised that the threat of strong winds is no longer expected, but people still need to take caution when heading outside because of debris.A Port Hedland Port Authority spokeswoman said the PHPA had started assessing the port for damage caused by the cyclone."Initial assessments indicate only minor storm damage to some of the port infrastructure, with one small craft sunk and located off her mooring," the spokeswoman said."The small craft is not adversely impacting any vessel movements."Further surveys (of the channel and beacons) are currently being conducted, with the return of vessels to the inner anchorage having already commenced."
Since 9am yesterday to 6am today, heavy rainfall from 100mm to 160mm has been recorded in the Pilbara Coastal Rivers catchment.
People were evacuated from homes in low-lying areas of Port Hedland yesterday amid fears of rapid and powerful flooding and a storm surge. But many residents did not want to leave their homes when asked by the authorities.Di Wright said she would have gone to a relocation centre, but because she could not take her two dogs and seven five-week-old puppies with her, she decided to stay in her Port Hedland home.She said trees and bushes were strewn across the street this morning, but overall the cyclone was not as bad as she had expected.
“It will be a big clean-up street-wise so that’s what we will be doing once the rain stops,” she said. “About 1.30am it woke me up and the house was just shaking because we’re on stilts.“It was really strong, you could hear everything shaking and the trees were really loud. It was like a jet engine.”Ms Wright said she expected the town would stay on red or yellow alert until tomorrow morning.
DFES assistant commissioner Darren Klemm said the red alert would stay in place until authorities had been able to assess the damage and clear away any hazards today.“We will wait for the passage to occur, then at first light tomorrow we will be looking to get those urban search and rescue teams out and about, using aircraft to assess the damage,” he said.An Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Rapid Damage Assessment team is on location to help if required.
Incident management teams have been established to help people that may be impacted by the cyclone. The Water Corporation advises that the Yule Borefield, which supplies Port Hedland, is likely to be significantly impacted by the cyclone. Contingent arrangements are in place to use the De Grey Borefield and it is not expected that supply will be disrupted.Wayne Ness has lived in Port Hedland since 1968 and lost his home to a cyclone in 2007.This morning he told The West Australian that he spent the wild night in front of his computer so he could watch the cyclone’s movements and relay information to his brother in Roebourne.“I still have nightmares in cyclones, I lost my house in Cyclone George so I can’t sleep and I get really tense,” he said. “I haven’t been able to get a hold of my brother for a few hours so I don’t know whether he is sleeping or what but the last I spoke to him was when the eye was going through. They were getting hammered.“We’ve still got a fair bit of rain coming down here in Hedland and it’s still quite gusty outside.”
The Department for Child Protection and Family Support has set up relocation points: JD Hardie Centre on Cottier Drive, South Hedland; Karratha Leisureplex on Dampier Highway adjacent to Broadhurst Road, Karratha; Civic Centre at 24 Francis Street, Marble Bar; Tom Price High School Gym on Central Road, Tom Price; Ashburton Hall on Asburton Court, Paraburdoo.
Be aware that only essential items can be taken into welfare centres. Alcohol and pets, except guide and assistance dogs, are prohibited.
• North West Coastal Highway from Fortescue River Roadhouse to Karratha
• Great Northern Highway from Auski Roadhouse to Port Hedland
• Great Northern Highway from Sandfire to Port Hedland
• North West Coastal Highway from Port Hedland to Roebourne
• North West Coastal Highway from Fortescue River Roadhouse to Karratha
• North West Coastal Highway from Roebourne to Karratha
• Marble Bar Road from Marble Bar to Port Hedland
• Karratha Road from North West Coastal Highway to Dampier Road
• Dampier Road from Karratha to Dampier
• Point Samson – Roebourne Road from Roebourne to Point Samson
• Madigan Road
• Warlu Road from North West Coastal Highway to Millstream Turnoff
• Nanutarra Munjina Road
• Karijini Road
• Paraburdoo-Tom Price Road from Tom Price to the Nanutarra Munjina Road
• Bingarn Road from Tom Price to the Nanutarra Munjina Road Kimberley
Gibb River Road from Lennard River to Wyndham