Rusty to paralyse  Pilbara
Rusty to paralyse Pilbara

Virgin Australia has cancelled its Broome-Perth flights today as Cyclone Rusty intensfies.

A Virgin Australia spokesman confirmed the 1.55pm scheduled flight from Perth to Broome and the 5.05pm flight from Broome to Perth have been cancelled.

The spokesman said passengers have been notified by text message, and were asked to check their flight status as Virgin continues to monitor and assess Cyclone Rusty.

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Further cancellations could occur tomorrow.

A Qantas spokeswoman said no Qantas flights had been cancelled today but the operations centre would continue to review the weather situation as the cyclone approached.

Modelling suggests Rusty will reach at least category three intensity and make land near Pardoo, 150km east of Port Hedland, late tomorrow night or early Wednesday.

But a more westerly crossing has not been discounted and the world's biggest bulk export port was taking no chances yesterday.

Ships at anchor were ordered to evacuate and inbound movements suspended.

Complete shutdowns at BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals Group's Port Hedland operations are expected to follow.

Coastal communities between Karratha and Broome were reporting gales last night.

The Weather Bureau said Rusty had a big radius with maximum winds of about 100km/h, meaning the strongest gales could be some distance from the centre.

Pardoo Roadhouse manager Gareth Gates said he was surprised at wind strength yesterday given the system was more than 48 hours away.

"It's already gale force out here at the moment," he said. "It's blowing up a storm but there's no rain.

"All our loose stuff outside has been put away and we're no longer taking guests. We're not quite sure yet if the staff will stay here and ride it out.

"It depends how close it's going to be to us."

Motorists are warned of road closures in the Kimberley and Pilbara.

The Cocos (Keeling) Islands have been hit by torrential rain, recording the quivalent of Perth’s average annual rainfall in just three days.

Parts of the islands flooded after more than 800mm of rain fell at West Island, with 249.4mm recorded in the 24 hours to 11am Saturday, 165.8mm to 11am Sunday and another 400mm since.

Cocos Club manager David Chaplin said he believed the floods were the worst in 100 years.

He said everything was leaking and the airstrip was closed because there was too much water on the runway.

The downpour looks set to continue with the Bureau of Meteorology predicting the heavy rain will persist today and tomorrow morning before easing to a few squally showers and thunderstorms late tomorrow.

Department of Fire and Emergency Services Kimberley district officer Matt Reimer said Rusty was forecast to bring heavy rain over the next two days.

"Along its path, we are expecting between 400mm and 600mm a day," he said. "If that does happen, it will probably cause road closures in the Pilbara, maybe even the Great Northern Highway. That is a concern we are planning for at this stage, in addition to any potential cyclone impact."

Mr Reimer said Broome had escaped mostly unscathed so far but strong wind gusts and heavy rain began hitting on Saturday afternoon.

"In Broome, we are expecting between 50mm and 100mm a day over the next couple of days," he said.

Mr Reimer said emergency crews were called to a house in Broome on Saturday night after a tree was blown on to it.

Early this morning the Department of Fire and Emergency Services issued a BLUE ALERT for Broome to Whim Creek, including people in or near Port Hedland and Wallal.

A cyclone watch is current for people in or near the coastal communities of Whim Creek to Mardie, including Karratha and Dampier, extending inland to Marble Bar and Millstream.

Tropical Cyclone Rusty is about 315km north of Port Hedland and 420km west of Broome. It is moving south at 6 kilometres per hour.

The West Australian

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