West Australian residents in the north-west Pilbara region are bracing for potentially damaging wind gusts and heavy rain as Tropical Cyclone Stan makes landfall later tonight.
The cyclone is currently a category two system, but is expected to become a category three when it crosses the coast near Port Hedland about midnight (AWST) on Saturday.
It is moving slower than expected, giving it time to intensify as it approaches land.
Stan is expected to bring destructive winds with gusts up to 170 kilometres per hour near the cyclone centre, expected to be somewhere between Wallal and Port Hedland.
A yellow alert remains in place for communities between Pardoo and Mardie, including Port Hedland.
The weather is likely to affect areas between Broome to Dampier, extending to inland parts of the east Pilbara. A blue alert is in place for Broome.
People have been stockpiling food and taking shelter as they prepare for the cyclone to hit, while mine sites batten down and some offshore rigs have been evacuated.
Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) duty forecaster Nadine Baillard said the system has the potential to intensify as it lingers over the ocean.
“We do expect it could reach category three cyclone intensity just before it crosses the coast later tonight or early Sunday morning,” she said.
“We’ve got quite an extensive warning area from Karratha up to Broome and inland parts towards Newman.”
Ms Baillard said the system was likely to cause heavy rain and flooding, and potentially a storm surge.
“We do expect some heavy rainfall in the area as well and we do have a number of flood warnings current,” she said.
“We are also expecting there could be a storm surge associated with this system.
“It will depend on the time that it crosses the coast as to whether it’s high tide or not but residents between Bidyadanga and Whim Creek, which includes Port Hedland, are specifically warned of the potential of a dangerous storm tide.
“We could see some damaging waves and dangerous flooding in that area.”
Stan is the first cyclone of the season for Australia.