By Morag MacKinnon
PERTH (Reuters) - A tropical cyclone that crossed Australia’s northwest coast early on Sunday was weakening, although several small inland communities were on red alert as it moved inland and the risk of heavy swells and storm surges remained.
Category 2 cyclone Stan made landfall some 120 km (75 miles) north east of the world’s largest iron ore export hub, Port Hedland, in the early hours of Sunday morning, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said. Fears that the slow-moving cyclone would intensify to a Category 3, or severe cyclone, didn’t eventuate.
The cyclone was heading inland in a south easterly direction and communities in its path were placed on red alert, the highest warning, and advised to take shelter in the strongest, safest part of a building.
“There is the potential for destructive winds with gusts to 130 km/h near the center of the cyclone for the next couple of hours,” the weather bureau said in a warning on its website. Heavy rainfall, flood warnings, rough seas and higher than usual tides were forecast as the cyclone moves inland and gradually weakens.
The Pilbara ports of Dampier and Port Hedland, through which gas from the north-west shelf and almost half of the world’s seaborne iron ore is shipped, were closed by authorities on Friday.
Cyclone Stan is the first of the season which usually runs from Nov. 1 to April 30, with up to 11 storms, according to forecasters.
(Reporting by Morag MacKinnon; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)