Rusty rips in to tiny town
Source: Bureau of Meteorology

UPDATE 5pm: The remnants of tropical cyclone Rusty are causing major flooding in the Pilbara catchment areas and river levels are expected to remain high for days.

About 4pm, two hours after all cyclone warnings were cancelled, emergency services said minor to major flood levels had been reached in the Nullagine, Oakover, Coongan and De Grey rivers, with further peaks possible in coming days.

The tiny community of Pardoo felt the full force of severe tropical cyclone Rusty, which packed winds of more than 200km/h at its centre and dumped 250mm of rain in just six hours as it battered the North West yesterday.

The extent of Rusty’s wrath was brought to light this morning.

The category three system, which crossed the coast about 3pm yesterday, unleashed its fury on the Pardoo Roadhouse and nearby cattle station.

Pardoo Station owner Graham Rogers said his 200,000 hectare property got “flogged to death”.

“There are cattle laying dead everywhere … a lot of structural damage,” he said.

“(Wednesday) night was probably the worst of it but it’s sat on us for three days.

“We’re just picking up the pieces; I’m walking around trying to assess what we’re going to do.

“We’ll be walking around in circles for a couple of days.”

Pardoo was established in 1869 as an outstation of De Grey station, originally for sheep, breeding mares and camels. It now runs 7000 head of cattle for export and livestock sales.

Mr Rogers said the main reason for the cattle deaths had been hyperthermia.

He said the station received more than 520mm of rain over the past three days and the resulting flooding was the worst he had seen in eight years on the land.

“(There is) lots of flooding; you can’t get in or out,” Mr Rogers said.

“This would be the most severe flood damage ever.”

Mr Rogers, who rode out the cyclone in the homestead with his 10 staff, said he was yet to hear from the State Emergency Service.

WEATHER RADAR

At 2pm ex-Tropical Cyclone Rusty, was estimated to be 125km south-east of Marble Bar and 175km north north-east of Newman and was moving south south-east at 17km/h.

Export facilities at Port Hedland were closed for 86.5 hours but re-opened for inbound ships about 4pm.

ZANY VIDEOS REVEAL LIGHTER SIDE OF RUSTY

Yesterday, more than 30 hours after residents in Port Hedland, Pardoo and Whim Creek were put on red alert, the category three cyclone started crossing the coast.

Almost 12 months after copping the worst of tropical cyclone Lua, Pardoo was again in the direct path of the storm as Rusty made land.

Pardoo Roadhouse manager Ian Badger said Lua left his home and workplace a "war zone" last year and he feared the same fate.

"It's been hammering real hard. I reckon the wind is as strong (as Lua). I just want it to go," he said.

"Water and wind has got in through some weatherboards and it's popped tiles off in the toilets. There are a lot of trees and limbs and stuff around."

Port Hedland escaped the worst of the cyclone but gale-force winds lashed the town for 36 hours. The town was taken of red alert at about 9.30pm. Residents from Pardoo to Whim Creek remained on red alert.

Picture: Carl Nelson

More than 500 people were evacuated to centres in Port Hedland, South Hedland, Marble Bar, Nullagine and Newman.

The police air wing is expected to fly food supplies including bread and tinned meat and vegetables to Marble Bar today because the road north of the town has been closed due to the wet weather.

A Department of Fire and Emergency Services spokesman said the plane was scheduled to pick up State Emergency Services volunteers from the town today and a decision was made to fly in food because the aircraft would otherwise be carrying only the pilot on the inbound flight.

Weather Bureau regional director Mike Bergin said fears of huge storm surges in Port Hedland diminished yesterday as Rusty was downgraded from a category four to a category two and tracked away from the town.

"We still expect there will be a storm surge associated with Rusty but it will be further east," he said.

Mr Bergin said there were fears of widespread flooding today, with 400mm rainfalls and winds up to 165km/h expected at Rusty's centre as it continued towards Marble Bar.

Storm chaser Steve Brooks, from Perth Weather Live, said the gales started to die down about 5pm.

"There's nothing we can do but wait it out," he said. "We are still getting really strong gusts coming through but nothing like what it was a few hours ago - it really did heat up for a while there."

Residents at Pardoo Station were reporting damage before the storm hit the community at 5pm.

They posted online: "Have lost the roof to our carport and water damage to another building so far, hoping it doesn't reach a Cat 5!"

Lloyd Bailey from the Department of Fire and Emergency Services said conditions would be dangerous for some time. "We could see fallen power lines . . . people need to remain vigilant and cautious," he said.

In Broome, Barbara Bromley was trapped in her car after a huge tree limb crashed on to the vehicle amid 70km/h gusts whipped up by Rusty.

SES volunteers used sandbags to weigh down part of the wind-damaged roof at Sun Cinemas.

The major WA route feeding into the Kimberley was also shut from Broome to Derby.

Police expect major flooding in the Gascoyne catchment and have sent six extra officers and two rescue helicopters to Carnarvon.

The SES have received some calls for minor damage, but requests for assistance may increase this morning as people return home.

SES and local volunteers are continuing to check property for damage and generally assisting in clean up of the Port Hedland town site, they are also being supported by personnel from the Urban Search and Rescue Team (USAR) who are clearing fallen trees from roadways.

Several roads remain closed: Marble Bar Road from Jigalong turn off to Great Northern Highway north of Marble Bar; Great Northern Highway from Broome to Port Hedland.

Hedland Senior High School, Port Hedland Primary School, Port Hedland School of the Air, Cassia Primary School, Cassia Education Support Centre Baler Primary School, South Hedland Primary School, Pilbara Behaviour Centre, Strelley Community School – Strelley Campus, Strelley Community School – Warralong Campus, St Cecilia's Primary School; Yandeyarra Remote Community School
Marble Bar Primary School and Nullagine Primary School all remain closed today.

All Port Hedland and South Hedland public schools will open tomorrow. Nullagine Primary School,
Marble Bar Primary School and Yandeyarra Remote Community School will remain closed until Tuesday.

This morning locals in the red alert area can access relocation centres at the Marble Bar Recreation Centre in McLeod Street, Marble Bar Primary School, Newman Recreation Centre and the Nullagine Primary School.

The West Australian

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