Tropical Cyclone Laurence made its second landfall in northwest Australia as a category 3 storm on the Saffir Simpson Scale (equivalent of a category 5 storm on the Australian Bureau of Meteorology Scale) on December 21, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC). Laurence developed in the Timor Sea on December 13 and made its first landfall near Kuri Bay on the north Kimberley coast in Western Australia State as a category 2 cyclone (Saffir Simpson Scale) on December 16. Here, the cyclone brought powerful winds and heavy rain to the north Kimberley coastline before weakening as it tracked inland. The storm eventually re-emerged in the Indian Ocean and made a second landfall along the sparsely populated Pilbara coast.
Reports said Laurence brought heavy rain and destructive winds to the Pilbara region after its second landfall, downing trees and causing significant damage to property. However, the landfall point is a very sparsely populated area located more than 100 miles (160 km) east of Port Hedland. The WA Fire and Emergency Services Authority (FESA) said major structural damage has been reported at Mandora, Eighty Mile Beach and Wallal, with some buildings flattened. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) said the communities were hit by wind gusts of around 285 kmph (177 mph) while 250 mm (10 inches) of rain fell in some areas. Phone connections to several towns in the affected area were cut and the power supply was disrupted throughout the Pilbara. Officials said there were no reports of loss of life or injury.
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The heavy rainfall and powerful winds associated with the cyclone also affected mining operations in the area. Production at some mines was suspended, but reports said operations at most facilities appear to have been unaffected and no serious structural damage was reported.
The BoM said Laurence was downgraded after it came ashore and the cyclone was expected to weaken and eventually dissipate as it moved further inland.
Sources: Joint Typhoon Warning Center, WSI, Agence France Presse, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) News, AAP Bulletins, Australian Associated Press General News
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