Powerful Cyclone Ilsa lashes Australia’s northwest coast

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – Australia’s most powerful tropical cyclone in eight years lashed the nation’s sparsely populated northwest coast with winds gusting to 289 kilometers (180 miles) per hour Friday but was weakening fast and no injuries were immediately reported.

Cyclone Ilsa crossed the Pilbara coast of Western Australia state as the most severe Category 5 storm, but it quickly weakened to a Category 3 system as it moved inland, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said.

Damage was still being assessed in the path of Ilsa, which made landfall in the early hours between the iron ore export town of Port Hedland and Wallal Downs Station, a 780-square-mile cattle ranch to the northeast.

The remote Pardoo Roadhouse and Tavern, 150 km (93 miles) northeast of Port Hedland, had “extensive damage,” Department of Fire and Emergency Services Superintendent Peter Sutton said.

But his department had received no calls for assistance. “It appears the larger populated areas have really escaped the damage,” Sutton said.

Government meteorologist Dean Narramore described Ilsa as a “very intense and dangerous system” and said inland communities could be isolated by flooding.

Port Hedland Mayor Peter Carter said dozens of people stayed in an evacuation center overnight but most of the city’s 16,000 residents stayed in their homes, which were built to withstand cyclones.

“The infrastructure is designed for cyclones, but flying debris, that’s what does all of the damage,” Carter told ABC.

Category 5 cyclones have mean wind speeds exceeding 200 kph (124 mph) with gusts exceeding 280 kph (174 mph). The last Category 5 storm to cross the Australian coast was Cyclone Marcia in 2015. Marcia caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage in the east coast state of Queensland.

Category 3 systems have maximum mean wind speeds of 118 kph to 159 kph (73 mph to 99 mph) with gusts between 165 kph and 224 kph (103 mph and 139 mph).

The storm will continue to weaken as its tracks southeast across land, the weather bureau said.


Find more of AP’s Asia-Pacific coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/asia-pacific

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