Heidi first cyclone to hit western Australia in 5 years

Monday 16th Jan 2012 by theWeather Club

Parts of western Australia are like a magnet for tropical cyclones that form in the Indian Ocean to the north and west, and in the Timor Sea to the northeast. So when the Category 2 Cyclone Heidi passed through the town of Port Hedland early on 12th January you might think it wouldn’t make headline news. But this was the first cyclone to hit the region since 2007 when severe Tropical Cyclone George wreaked havoc taking three lives. In fact it was the exact same spot, Port Hedland, that George had hit five years ago and so there were more nerves than usual when Heidi made landfall.

Hedland resident and ABC reporter Elise Batchelor described what happened when 80mph gusts of wind hit her home: "The manhole cover in our ceiling was flapping like a wobble board Rolf Harris style and then just flew up and disappeared into the ceiling."

The strong winds damaged buildings, ripped up trees and brought down power lines causing power cuts to over 3,500 homes as the eye of Cyclone Heidi crossed the coast 6 miles east of Port Hedland. The Great Northern Highway was closed for nearly 24 hours to stop people driving into the eye of the storm and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology issued flood warnings for coastal streams and rivers.

After a few hours the Heidi was downgraded to a Category 1 cyclone as the wind speeds decreased. Despite this heavy rain persisted right through the night. Port Hedland received 128mm of rain by 9:00am with winds gusting to 81mph and Wallal Downs recording 166mm of rain. Late on 12th January the system was downgraded to a tropical low about 30 miles northeast of Tom Price. On 13th January, the remnants of Heidi continued to move south through the Gascoyne region with widespread rainfall totals reaching 30mm.

Heidi won’t make the record books especially in this part of Australia but it will be a reminder that cyclones are still as much a part of the climate here, despite the distinct lack of them over the last 5 years.