Western Australia on Red Alert as Cyclone Christine Turns 'Destructive', Storm Surges Expected

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By Reissa Su | December 31, 2013 2:20 PM EST

Tropical Cyclone Christine, a Category 3 storm, has made landfall in Western Australia's Pilbara coast. Residents were forced to seek refuge as the storm continues to bring heavy rain, strong winds and dangerous storm surges.

Authorities in West Australia have issued a red alert warning as Cyclone Christine crossed Pilbara coast between Whim Creek and Roebourne overnight with winds of 180 km/hour. The cyclone was spotted 190 km southwest of Port Hedland and 70 km southeast of Karratha and headed southwest 17 km/hour, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

In the early hours of Dec. 31, the storm headed further south. Australians in the Pilbara coast have been warned to stay indoors while Cyclone Christine passes. A red alert has been placed in the coastal areas between De Grey and Mardie including Port Hedland, South Hedland, Point Samson, Wickham, Dampier and Karratha.

On Dec. 30, Tropical Cyclone Christine has been reclassified from a Category 2 to a Category 3 storm as it quickly picked up speed. The cyclone was predicted to make landfall between Karratha and Port Hedland on the Pilbara coast. Affected areas should expect winds of around 200 kilometres per hour near the eye of the storm. Western Australia Department of Fire and Emergency Services issued a statement warning residents of a "possible threat to lives and homes."

Cyclone Christine is expected to bring storm surges measuring up to five metres. Coastal residents were warned of flooding and strong winds. Neil Bennett from the weather bureau warned the cyclone's winds can bring destruction in its path. Rainfall is estimated to be 150-300 millimetres.  

The weather bureau has described Cyclone Christine as a very powerful system and advised people in affected areas to exercise a great deal of caution.

Australia's iron ore mining operations have been forced to shut down. Residents are encouraged to turn off water, electricity and gas while the cyclone remains on land.

Port Hedland Mayor Kelly Howlett explained that when a red alert is issued, people are not allowed to go outside their homes unless the government has officially lifted the warning. Ms Howlett described the sky as beginning to look grey and ominous. She is currently in the safety of her home.

Evacuation centres have been set up around the coast to serve as shelter for people stuck in caravan parks and those coming from indigenous communities. 

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