WA News

Tiny Pilbara community dodges Rusty bullet

Simon White

The tiny Pilbara community of Pardoo appears to have emerged remarkably unscathed after copping a direct hit when the huge tropical cyclone Rusty crossed the WA coast late on Wednesday afternoon.

In what must have seemed like a remarkable case of dejavu - another one-time category four system, Cyclone Lua, made landfall near Pardoo less than a year ago - Pardoo Roadhouse owner Ian Badger braced himself for the worst when Rusty veered away from its original predicted destination of Port Hedland.

But his anxiety, while certainly understandable, turned out to be fortuitously unfounded.

Speaking on Radio 6PR on Wednesday night, Badger reported only some damage to a shed, relatively minor water inundation and disturbance to his sleep patterns.

"It's almost peaceful outside for the first time in three or four days," Badger said.

"We've been pretty lucky this time. Cyclone Lua last year was a bit more intense."

Badger said his clean-up effort after Rusty would still be significant but paperwork might be the hardest part of that task.

"Now I've got to deal with the insurance companies," he said.

"Dealing with a cyclone is much easier than dealing with insurance companies."

According to Badger, nearby Pardoo Station - which along with the roadhouse and some accomodation facilities makes up the community - was more severely affected by tidal surges.

But station staff posted on Facebook early on Wednesday evening that they were safe and well and waiting out Rusty in relative comfort.

Badger must now call his own staff back from Broome, where he sent them when Rusty loomed ominously off the North West coast over the weekend.

"They [the staff] have had enough partying," he said.

As of 9pm on Wednesday night, Pardoo remained on red alert but Rusty was tracking south-east towards Marble Bar and Nullagine and expected to carry 165km/h winds with it.

Both Marble Bar and Nullagine had been placed on red alert as well but Rusty, which was downgraded from category four to three on Wednesday, was forecast to drop to category two on Thursday. By the time it reaches Newman, it will likely be category one or may even have dissipated into a tropical low.

The following alerts were issued by the Burea of Meteorology at 9pm Wednesday:

RED ALERT: People in or near communities between Pardoo and Nullagine, including Marble Bar should go to shelter immediately.
BLUE ALERT: People in communities between Nullagine and Newman, need to prepare for cyclonic weather.
ALL CLEAR: People in Port Hedland and South Hedland are advised that wind danger has passed but you need to take care to avoid the dangers caused by damage.

For a full rundown on all of Wednesday's Rusty happenings, simply scroll through the article posts below. Among the more interesting items:

The Bureau of Meteorology's final update for Wednesday is in and, although Rusty remains a category three cyclone, it's continuously weakening the more it moves inland. By 2am Thursday it's forecast to be down to category two.

Wind gusts of 165km/h are expected near the cyclone centre tonight and destructive winds of 125km/h are expected to reach Marble Bar early on Thursday. Gails should extend further inland to Nullagine early tomorrow morning and possibly to Newman and Telfer during Thursday, before Rusty weakens below cyclone intensity overnight Thursday.

Of more immediate concern might be warnings of major flooding in the De Grey catchment area and possible significant flooding in the Upper Fortescue catchment and in Pilbara coastal streams.

People on the coast between De Grey and Wallal are warned of the potential for a dangerous storm tide tonight. Tides are likely to rise significantly above the normal high tide mark with damaging waves and dangerous coastal inundation.

Will expand on this a little more later but just heard Pardoo roadhouse's Ian Badger on 6PR. All things considered, he says they've got through the brunt of Rusty in remarkably good shape. Now the real battle starts.

"Dealing with the cyclone is much easier than dealing with the insurance companies," he said.

Simon White

Further good news for the folks of Port Hedland. After dodging a direct hit from cyclone Rusty tonight, they are due to have their red alert lifted tonight according to Channel Ten's Aleisha Banner.

Not sure if this is strictly Rusty-related but, what the hell, I'm going to blame any rough weather up north on the cyclone. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority is currently assisting a cargo ship that is at risk of rolling in rough seas, 190 nautical miles north-west of Broome. The Mellum Trader, which 13 people on board and is carrying oil well development casings, first reported trouble on Tuesday, when it was listing at around 35 degrees. The Mellum Trader is continuing towards Broome with the assistance of a tug boat.

The blue alert zone from the BOM's 6pm bulletin now extends as far as Nullagine and Newman and we're hearing that FMG's Cloudbreak mine (89 kilometres west-south-west of Nullagine) is the latest to go into lockdown mode in anticipation of some wild weather.

Speaking of wildness and lockdowns, the vid below is on You Tube and entitled "Harlem Shake Cyclone Rusty (Aussie Storm Chasers/Goat Edition)". Words fail us, to be honest, other than to say that weather apparently confined its stars to 48 hours in the house after filming.

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From everything we're hearing and read Pardoo has escaped major damage - so far. As detailed in the tweet below, this isn't the first time in recent memory that Pardoo has found itself in the path of a major cyclone.

Cyclone columnist thumbnail

On more serious matters - and it's good news - Rusty is still a category three cyclone but the Bureau of Meteorology is expecting it to drop to a category one or maybe even just a tropical low during Thursday. It's currently predicted to be category two when it reaches Marble Bar, category one when it gets to Newman. Here are the latest advance calculations:


How the BOM is forecasting Rusty will gradually fade on Thursday.
How the BOM is forecasting Rusty will gradually fade on Thursday. 

One of those funny little quirks of cyclone season - turns out Rusty has been a bit of a boon for bird watchers in the North West.

It's also been welcomed by some miners - as shown in this picture, which was sent into our friends at ABC. Apparently a cyclone is a good thing if you don't really feel like working.

Dare we say it, a rusty bus?
Dare we say it, a rusty bus? 

Seems fair to suggest not so many folks reading this blog would have heard of Yarrie, which is 90 kilometres north-east of Marble Bar and has received 106 millimetres of rain since 9am. The below tweet, by beef producer Anabelle Coppin, is testament to the deluge:

If you're wondering how tiny Pardoo - with its roadhouse, caravan park, station and not much else - is holding up in the direct face of Rusty, the answer seems to be pretty good. The Facebook post below came from Pardoo Station a short while ago:

A Facebook update from the Pardoo Station, shortly after 6pm.
A Facebook update from the Pardoo Station, shortly after 6pm. 
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Marble Bar once chalked up 160 straight days of 37.8 degrees and above but it's going to be in for a fair bit of rain and wind in the next 24 hours or so. It's the latest area to go under red alert and is expected to be significantly impacted by cyclone Rusty by Thursday morning.

The latest BOM advice, issued at 6pm, is forecasting destructive winds of 125km/h reaching Marble Bar overnight. Gales should extend further inland to Nullagine and possibly Newman and Telfer during Thursday before Rusty weakens below cyclone intensity overnight Thursday. 



A 6pm cyclone update shows the path of Rusty towards Marble Bar.
A 6pm cyclone update shows the path of Rusty towards Marble Bar. 
Rania Spooner, columnist headshot

Messages of support for the small outback posting of Pardoo are filtering through social media as TC Rusty continues to cross the coast.

"Oh poor Pardoo station, I had my year 4 school camp there," a Mandurah woman posted on Facebook.

"Thinking of you all in Pardoo with Rusty closing in on your little town," another wrote.

"Good luck to those in Pardoo!" said another Facebook user.

"OH MY GOD!! People at Pardoo Roadhouse (if they havent been blown away yet) are smack bang in the eye of Cyclone Rusty..." wrote Nightstorm Photography.

Only a matter of time before the political parody accounts got some Rusty fever (disclaimer that we really shouldn't have to put in but most probably should - this isn't Colin Barnett's real Twitter account).

Rania Spooner, columnist headshot

The following roads remain closed as cyclone Rusty crosses the WA coast.

• Great Northern Highway from Auski Roadhouse to Broome
• North West Coastal Highway from Roebourne to Port Hedland
• Marble Bar Road from Newman to Great Northern Highway
• Ripon Hills Road
• Gibb River Road from Mot Barnett to Pentecost River

Port Hedland might have mercifully dodged Rusty's real fury but there is still plenty of water about. This photo came courtesy of ABC journo Jake Sturmer, who you can follow @thesoundofjs

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Probably not the news Pardoo residents wanted to her - a late change of course by cyclone Rusty has spared Port Hedland the full force of 230km/h winds, leaving the tiny community to bear the brunt of what was a category four monster.

The eye of the massive storm began to cross the West Australian coast just before 3pm on Wednesday, more than 30 hours after the north-west coastline was placed on red alert and residents told to take shelter and stay inside.

Cyclone warnings remained in place from Sandfire Roadhouse to Whim Creek including Port Hedland, Marble Bar, Nullagine, Millstream, Tom Price, Telfer and Newman.

Widespread very heavy rainfall is tipped for overnight and on Thursday, and is likely to lead to major flooding in the De Grey and Fortescue catchments.

Rainfall totals of 187mm at Yarrie were recorded in the 24 hours until 9am, and a further 76mm fell from 9am to 1.30pm.

Rania Spooner, columnist headshot

There's a lot people can do to increase their pets' chances of survival in a cyclone, according to the RSPCA.

Here's some of the tips from a checklist given to evacuation centres in the Pilbara this week.


Ensure your pet cat or dog is registered, microchipped and has an identification tag and that contact details are up-to-date on the microchip register.

Research and identify temporary accommodation options for your pets.

To avoid unnecessary risks to you and your pets, move animals to a safer place as soon as possible. If you know an evacuation may be occurring in a few days, consider moving your pets into temporary accommodation in a safe area well before there is any need to evacuate.

Emergency kit

Registration or licence papers, vaccination certificates, ages, pet carriers, van, horse float/horse trucks: these need to be available and functional in the case of evacuation.

Collars, leads, harnesses, saddles, toys, blankets, bedding, nesting material.

Food and water and bowls, medications, faeces containment equipment.

Photograph of your pets - place in plastic bags – along with contact details for your vet, local RSPCA, council and alternative animal accommodation.

Aleisha Orr

Ian Badger is waiting out cylone Rusty at Pardoo roadhouse, where the real brunt of the weather is expected to hit. If it gets bad enough, he's going to seek shelter in a sea container. Read the full story of life in the eye of the storm here.


This picture was just posted on Pilbara Weather's Facebook page... 

Hedland [idiot] of the Day! 
Walking along the Coastal Highway near Wedgefield. 

A good reminder that there is currently a red alert in place. Doing stuff like this is not just dangerous, but you could attract some serious penalties. 

See Rania's post on this topic earlier at 1.20pm. 

'There's always one' - person caught outside during a red alert in Port Hedland.
'There's always one' - person caught outside during a red alert in Port Hedland. 
Rania Spooner, columnist headshot

The last severe cyclone to cross the Pilbara coast was TC Lua in March 2012.

Lua crossed the coast on March 17th between Pardoo and Wallal as a category 4, with maximum gusts estimated to be 230 km/hr.

Rusty has now been downgraded to a category 3.

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