North West communities are strapping themselves in for gale force winds and heavy rain tonight as tropical cyclone Rusty inches toward the Pilbara coast.

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

However, a more westerly crossing has not been discounted and the world’s largest bulk export port is taking no chances with ships at anchorage ordered to evacuate this afternoon and inbound movements suspended.

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

The Bureau of Meteorology said TC Rusty was moving slowly towards the coast with gales expected to commence Sunday evening.

During Monday the system will continue to intensify and there is a high risk that it will cross the coast as a severe tropical cyclone.

“Rusty is a large tropical cyclone and is expected to move slower than usual resulting in higher than usual rainfall,” the bureau said.

“Widespread very heavy rainfall is expected during Tuesday and Wednesday and is likely to lead to major flooding in the De Grey catchment. Significant flooding in the Fortescue is also likely.”

DFES State Emergency Service (SES) advised people in communities between Broome and Whim Creek need to prepare for cyclonic weather and organise an emergency kit including first aid kit, torch, portable radio, spare batteries, food and water.

The West Australian

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