Gale force winds are expected to hit the North West Cape of Western Australia as soon as this evening as Tropical Cyclone Nicholas continues to track away from the Western Australian coast.
The category three system is about 280 kilometres north of the Pilbara town of Exmouth and travelling in a south west direction at nine kilometres an hour.
The cyclone is not expected to cross the coast but the town of Exmouth is bracing for strong winds.
Nicholas is likely to be downgraded to a category two cyclone tomorrow.
An evacuation centre has been set up in Exmouth and at least 60 tourists were forced to leave a caravan park in the town yesterday.
Camping facilities in the national park and more than 50 businesses and three schools have closed.
Exmouth Shire President Ronnie Fleay says there’s a feeling of uncertainty in the town.
“We all know that these cyclones are pretty unpredictable and we may feel the brunt of it and we may not, so we are just waiting to hear,” he said.
Getting back to work
Oil and gas industries in the region are slowly returning to work as Cyclone Nicholas moves further south.
While Rio Tinto’s mines are all operational, trains carrying ore to the Dampier Port are yet to start running because there is nowhere for them to stockpile the ore.
Iron ore ships are being kept out to sea, unable to enter the ports because of a large swell.
Woodside’s phase five operations in Karratha north of Exmouth are all being brought back on line.
The company says shutdowns for cyclones are built into its production targets and will not affect its output.
Woodside says it has stopped production on its mobile drilling rigs, the Cossack Pioneer and Ngnhuarra, although staff have not been evacuated.