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Cyclone Veronica leaves Port Hedland residents preparing for imminent impact

By James Carmody, Fri 22 Mar 2019

Vicki Irvine is due to give birth to her first child today — and she is hoping the baby is not in a hurry.



That's because Ms Irvine and her partner Kynan Coley are among

Expected to arrive as a category four system sometime on Sunday between Port Hedland and Karratha, the cyclone is set to bring with it destructive winds and likely widespread flooding.

It has left Ms Irvine in a delicate situation.

"Hopefully this baby just doesn't come really. I'm trying to hold it in," she said jokingly.

Hedland Health Campus is set to remain open throughout the cyclone.

But Mr Coley said he could not believe the timing.

"I think it took me half a day to realise 'Oh, we need to be able to get to the hospital on that day, that could be awkward'," he said.



'I've taped the windows up, we've got food and water'

Throughout Port Hedland, those who have homes safe enough to stay put have been busy preparing them.

Among them was Evan Williamson who lives across from the ocean, which had been wild all day and was becoming more intense.



"I'm a little bit nervous but we've done all the prep, so we should be safe hopefully," he said.

"I've just brought everything inside and tied down anything that is too big to fit inside.

"I've taped the windows up, we've got food and water, hopefully enough for a week."

Last on Mr Williamson's check list were sand bags which were being made available by the Town of Port Hedland late in the day.



Mayor worried about new residents

Mayor of the Town, Camillo Blanco, urged other residents to follow suit and to ensure their neighbours would also be safe.

"Tie down your stuff in your yard, go next door and make sure that your neighbours are ready to go through this event," he said.



"If you've got any elderly people in the street, go knock on their door and find out whether they need any help."

Mr Camillo expressed concern that many new residents had not been in Port Hedland long enough to realise how dangerous the cyclone would be.



"Until you've actually been through a category four, category five cyclone, you don't actually understand the power generated by weather events like this," he said.

"It's very important that they are ready to go, they've filled their cars up, they've got a bit of money, a bit of cash in their pocket, they've got to understand that we could lose power, we could lose water and general services like the sewerage system.

"This is a massive weather event and people just need to be ready, or if they don't think that their properties can handle such an event, they need to think about moving somewhere else or leaving the area," he said.

Caravan park evacuated, businesses shut

Among those forced to leave were the guests and residents in Port Hedland's caravan parks, with some choosing to stay in other cyclone-rated accommodation while others hit the road to head to places like Sandfire and Broome.

Carol Marinucci had to chain down her caravan, where she has lived for nine years, and leave it behind, hoping for the best.



She stocked up on supplies first but said some of the shelves in the supermarkets were looking "barren" after others rushed to do the same.

"I went down yesterday morning at seven o'clock and there were only a few bottles of water left," she said.

Many businesses and work places have also shut up shop to see out the storm, including major mining companies which have sent fly-in-fly-out workers home.

The port of Port Hedland — one of the world's busiest — has also been shut down, with all of its ships sent out to safer waters.



Emergency services have been gearing up for a busy weekend, with a large contingent of extra staff flown to Pilbara towns from Perth.

Some of those services were set to be door knocking around Port Hedland this afternoon to ensure people were ready for the worst.

Along with Hedland Health Campus, Karratha Health Campus and Onlsow Health Service are set to remain open, while Roebourne Hospital will be closed if there is a red alert.

Schools in the region remained open today and the Education Department said it would reassess on Monday whether students would be able to attend.

ABC

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