WA town hit by cyclone-related tornado

By AAP with AG Staff 23 February 2011
Reading Time: 2 Minutes Print this page
Karratha has been hit by a mini-tornado in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Carlos.

VIDEO: Amateur footage of the tornado posted by a Karratha local on YouTube.

hit the town of Karratha in Western Australia, as residents bunkered down in response to the renewed Tropical Cyclone Carlos.

The twister hit the Pilbara town on Monday, damaging nearly 40 homes and forcing emergency workers to hastily make temporary repairs before Carlos bore down on Tuesday.

Monday’s mini-tornado ripped through parts of Karratha, damaging houses and cars and bringing down trees and power lines. State Emergency Service (SES) volunteers worked quickly to make temporary repairs to 38 homes, covering gaps in roofs where parts had blown off, sandbagging and clearing debris.

Residents sheltered in their homes and a relocation centre at Karratha’s TAFE as Carlos edged over the coast and weakened on Tuesday afternoon, being downgraded from category 2 to 1.  There were no reports of major damage as the system continued to move south-west to threaten other coastal communities.

Cyclone Carlos had first made landfall near Darwin on 16 February, weakened as it went back out to sea and then regained some of its previous intensity as it moved down the Pilbara coast on Monday (21 February).

See a timeline of Australia’s worst cyclones.

Residents put on red alert for tornado

Some large pieces of debris had to be left on Monday for later clearance by heavy machinery as Carlos hit. Electricity crews worked into the night to restore supply to all but 60 out of about 1600 homes that had lost power.

Early on Tuesday, residents of Karratha and other communities between Whim Creek and Mardie on the Pilbara coast were put on red alert and urged to shelter in their homes or relocation centres.

At 4.20pm local time on Tuesday, Roebourne Shire President Nicole Lockwood said Carlos had passed over Karratha with just wind and rain left in its tail. Crews were out assessing the damage, but there were no reports of power outages or major problems, she said.

Nicole said low lying parts of the town and caravan parks had been evacuated with people seeking shelter with family or friends or at the relocation centre.

All public schools in Karratha, Port Hedland and Roebourne were closed on Tuesday along with many major roads. Oil, gas and port installations in the region also suspended operations in readiness for heavy weather.

Cyclone warning for WA south coast

Communities further south along the WA coast including Onslow and Exmouth are now bracing for Carlos with possible gale-force winds and flooding. A cyclone warning was in place for coastal areas from Whim Creek to Cape Cuvier and a cyclone watch for Cape Cuvier to Carnarvon.

Gales may reach as far south as Carnarvon and offshore islands by Wednesday evening, the bureau said. Residents of Pilbara coastal towns between Point Samson and Exmouth have been warned of higher than usual tides, rough seas and possible flooding of low-lying coastal areas.