Powerful Cyclone Ilsa hits Australia’s northwest coast

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CANBERRA(AP) Australia’s most powerful tropical storm in eight years hit the northwest coast on Friday with gusts of winds that apparently reached 289 kilometers (180 miles) per hour, but larger populations. Avoided crowded areas and did not encourage immediate reporting of injuries.

Cyclone Ilsa crossed the Pilbara coast in Western Australia as the most severe Category 5 storm, but weakened to Category 2 as it moved inland, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

En route damage from Ilsa, which landed early in the morning 150 kilometers (93 mi) northeast of the Parduh iron ore exporting town of Port Hedland, was still under investigation.

Pardoo’s population was 47 at the last census, and the Pardoo Roadhouse and Tavern were demolished. The two owners remained unharmed during the storm, emergency officials said. “They had a pretty uncomfortable and challenging night,” said Fire and Emergency Services Director Peter McCarthy.

Beyond Pardoo, acting minister for emergency services Sue Ellery described storm damage as “fairly minimal.”

Fire and Rescue Services Commissioner Darren Clem said Ilsa moved from the Indian Ocean to Port, the world’s largest bulk export port for shipping Australian iron ore worldwide, after she moved to Headland. He said he was relieved to move to Port Hedland has a population of 16,000 she is the largest city in the Pilbara.

Before the storm hit, the city’s docks had been cleared of ships, including iron ore carriers. Residents of Port Hedland “feel like they dodged a bullet,” Mr Clem said. “Port Hedland could be devastating in the event of a Category 5 cyclone.”

Ilsa set an Australian record for gusts of up to 289 km/h (180 mph) on Bedout Island off the Pilbara coast before the island’s gauge failed. It wasn’t obvious.

“We’ll look at some data there, and these could be the strongest gusts ever recorded by the Australian station’s equipment,” Smith said.

Category 5 cyclones have average wind speeds in excess of 200 km/h (124 mph) and gusts in excess of 280 km/h (174 mph). The last Category 5 storm to cross the Australian coast was Cyclone Marcia in 2015. Marcia has caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to the east coast state of Queensland.

Category 2 storms have maximum average wind speeds of 89 km/h to 117 km/h (55 mph to 73 mph) and gusts of 125 km/h to 164 km/h (78 mph to 102 mph).

According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, the storm will weaken further as it moves southeast by land.