Cyclone George

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Severe Tropical Cyclone George
Category 5 severe tropical cyclone (Aus scale)
Category 3 (Saffir–Simpson scale)
George 08 feb 2007 0155Z.jpg
Severe Tropical Cyclone George on 8 March, a few hours before landfall.
Formed 2 March 2007 (2007-03-02)
Dissipated 10 March 2007 (2007-03-11)
Highest winds 10-minute sustained: 205 km/h (125 mph)
1-minute sustained: 205 km/h (125 mph)
Gusts: 285 km/h (180 mph)
Lowest pressure 902 mbar (hPa); 26.64 inHg
Fatalities 3
Damage $6.2 million (2007 USD)
Areas affected Northern Territory, northwest Western Australia
Part of the 2006-07 Australian region cyclone season

Severe Tropical Cyclone George (JTWC designation: 17S, also known as simply Cyclone George) was the third tropical cyclone to affect the Australian region and the first to affect Western Australia in 2007. The cyclone formed on 2 March in the Northern Territory's Top End late in February, and intensified when it entered the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf, before crossing the northern coast of the Kimberley. It moved over the Indian Ocean, intensifying to a Category 4 cyclone, and eventually crossed the Pilbara coast just east of Port Hedland at peak intensity. After further analysis from the Bureau of Meteorology Cyclone George was reclassified to Category 5. It caused significant damage to the town of Port Hedland and numerous isolated mining camps around the town. Insured damage totalled A$8 million (US$6.2 million 2007), and there were 3 fatalities.

Meteorological history[edit]

Map plotting the track and intensity of the storm according to the Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale

A tropical low that had been centred over land in the Northern Territory's Top End since 27 February started showing signs of development, and the Tropical Cyclone Warning Centre in Darwin initiated tropical cyclone advices on 2 March while the low was still inland. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center issued a Tropical Cyclone Formation Alert on the system later that day, and designated it Tropical Cyclone 17S the next day as it emerged into water.

Later on 3 March, TCWC Darwin upgraded the low to a tropical cyclone, naming it George, the first name used from the Darwin list since Fay in March 2004. George continued to strengthen, and was upgraded to a Category 2 tropical cyclone. It made landfall on 4 March in the Kimberley region Western Australia on the western coast of the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf. The tropical cyclone weakened and the BOM downgraded it to a tropical low after it moved over land, but this weakening was short lived however, as it almost immediately re-intensified into a Category 1 tropical cyclone when it started to move off the Kimberley coast.

The Tropical Cyclone Warning Centre in Perth began monitoring the re-developed cyclone as it moved westward. Initially, poor organisation inhibited any strengthening, but George moved into more favourable conditions and quickly regained strength. On the evening of 7 March, George intensified to a Severe Category 3 system.[1] The severe cyclone turned abruptly to the south later that day, moving closer to the Pilbara coast, while growing significantly in size. As George continued to move southwards towards Port Hedland on 8 March, George was upgraded to a Category 4 cyclone, and a Category 5 just prior to landfall.[2] At this time, the JTWC declared George to have intensified to 205 km/h (130 mph) 1-minute sustained winds, equivalent to a strong Category 3 in the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale.[3] Gales were first recorded at Port Hedland at 5:20 p.m on 8 March (Australian Western Daylight Savings Time). At 7 p.m, the weather station on Bedout Island (off the Pilbara Coast) reported a 10 minute mean wind speed of 194 kilometres per hour (121 mph), which is the highest 10 minute average officially recorded in Australia.[1]

At 10 p.m on 8 March, Cyclone George made landfall 50 kilometres (31 mi) north-east of Port Hedland.[2] When it made landfall, it was still at its peak intensity.[2] Damaging wind gusts of 154 kilometres per hour (96 mph) were recorded at Port Hedland Airport weather station just before 11 p.m.[1] The anemometer failed shortly afterwards.[1] At 00:12 a.m on 9 March, an air pressure reading of 962.7 hectopascals (28.43 inHg) was recorded at Port Hedland Airport; this was lowest recorded at the airport during the passage of the cyclone.[1] George weakened slowly while over land and it was downgraded to a Category 3 late on 9 March. The next day, the Tropical Cyclone Warning Centre in Perth issued its final warning for the system.

Preparations[edit]

Cyclone George resulted in numerous schools and ports in Port Hedland being closed down in order to deal with the severe cyclone.[4] Mining, Oil and Gas companies had to ultimately close in order to also deal with the threat of the imminent Cyclone. People were additionally evacuated from low lying levels near the sea, and moved either to higher ground, or further inland to Cyclone Shelters.[5]

Impact[edit]

Most intense Australian cyclones
Rank Cyclone Season Min. pressure
mbar (hPa)
1 Gwenda 1999 900
Inigo 2003 900
3 George 2007 902
4 Orson 1989 904
5 Theodore 1994 910
Vance 1999 910
Fay 2004 910
Glenda 2006 910
Source: Australian Bureau of Meteorology

Cyclone George was the most powerful cyclone to hit Port Hedland since Cyclone Joan in 1975.[2] The cyclone's peak intensity of 902 hPa (26.64 inHg) with wind gusts of up to 285 kilometres per hour (177 mph) was estimated following Dvorak analysis of satellite imagery.[6]

Power and telephone lines were down in Port Hedland, many roofs and fences were torn down and trees were uprooted.[7] At least one house was destroyed.[8] The Pilbara region was declared a disaster zone, and the Australian Defence Force was on standby to provide extra help.[9] At around 10 p.m on 8 March, the Bureau of Meteorology's Port Hedland weather radar was damaged by the cyclone and was offline for nearly a day.[1] Tropical Cyclone Jacob struck almost the same area as George only three days later, although it was not as damaging or deadly as George. It did however cause some minor flooding.[10]

Three people were killed and twenty-eight others were injured as a result of the severe cyclone. One death and the majority of the people injured occurred at a Fortescue Metals Group camp,[11] about 100 km (62.13 mi) south of Port Hedland.[12] Strong winds and flooding delayed the rescue efforts for most of the day.[9] However, all injured workers were airlifted to the hospital in Port Hedland after the cyclone passed.[12] The deaths occurred when strong winds knocked over temporary accommodation shelters known as dongas. The second death occurred at Indee station, located between Port Hedland and the mining camp.[9] The man died from severe internal injuries while escaping from his wrecked donga, trying to seek help at the main station homestead.[13] A third death occurred when a man who was transferred to a Perth hospital on 11 March died due to the injuries received when the cyclone hit at the Fortescue camp.[14]

Aftermath[edit]

The Australian Workers' Union (AWU) launched a scathing attack on the Fortescue Metals Group Ltd, saying they were disgraced that no evacuation took place before the cyclone hit. The AWU were also concerned about the buildings at the campsite as they were only built to withstand a Category 2 cyclone. Almost all of the buildings located at the camp site were destroyed.[14] Fortescue and its subsidiary the Pilbara Infrastructure (TPI) were charged with a combined 18 counts of failing to provide or maintain a safe workplace over Cyclone George and appeared in Perth Magistrates Court.[15] The Magistrate dismissed all charges and when that decision was appealed to the Supreme Court of Western Australia the appeal was also dismissed, with Justice Stephen Hall finding that Fortescue had met their duty to provide a safe workplace by engaging "engaging qualified and experienced experts" to manage the dongas. [16] Both courts had heard that the company contracted to build the dongas, NT Link, had given assurances to Fortescue that the dongas had been constructed to industry standards when it had not.[17] NT Link was granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for its testimony against Fortescue. [18]

After Cyclone George struck the Pilbara coast, a relief fund was set up in order to help the victims of the storm. Mining companies, business, and residents all donated money to assist with the cause, and within 48 hours the town of Port Hedland was able to raise just over A$520,000 (US$410 in 2007; $466.00 2014 USD).[19] BHP Billiton also helped recover Port Hedland by giving the local government $1 million A$ each year which will fund for a large part of an enhancement scheme with the Western Australian State Government to improve the town's appearance. Schools in South Hedland remained closed due to safety concerns about the damages caused by cyclones George and Jacob until 19 March, after the local community joined in a massive clean-up.[20]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f "Meteorological Aspects of Severe Tropical Cyclone George’s Impact on the Pilbara". Bureau of Meteorology. Retrieved 27 November 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Severe Tropical Cyclone George". Previous Cyclones. Bureau of Meteorology. Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  3. ^ Tropical Cyclone GEORGE, australiasevereweather.com
  4. ^ WA towns brace for cyclone, The Australian.
  5. ^ Cyclone disrupts WA oil, gas, NEWS.com.au Business.
  6. ^ "Meteorological Aspects of Severe Tropical Cyclone George’s Impact on the Pilbara". Bureau of Meteorology. 2007. p. 4. Retrieved 27 November 2011. 
  7. ^ Cyclone George, The Geelong Advertiser, 2007-03-09.
  8. ^ "Three reported dead after WA cyclone". ABC News Online. 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-12-03. Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  9. ^ a b c Deadly cyclone's fury not spent, The Daily Telegraph[dead link]
  10. ^ Tropical Cyclone Jacob Impacts, Australian Bureau of Meteorology, 2007-03-05.
  11. ^ PM pledges extra funding for cyclone George victims, ABC News Online, 2007-03-09.
  12. ^ a b At least two dead in George's wake, The Golden Mail
  13. ^ WA police launch probe into third cyclone death, ABC News Online, 2007-03-15.
  14. ^ a b Police to investigate cyclone deaths, ABC News Online, 2007-03-11.
  15. ^ 'No peace' for family after Fortescue cleared of cyclone deaths, WA Today, 2011-02-18.
  16. ^ Worksafe cyclone appeal dismissed, Nine MSN, 2013-03-23.
  17. ^ 'No peace' for family after Fortescue cleared of cyclone deaths, WA Today, 2011-02-18.
  18. ^ DLA Piper successfully defends Fortescue Metals Group against Cyclone George charges, DLA Piper, 2012-05-10.
  19. ^ Money pours into cyclone George relief fund, ABC News Online, 2007-03-16.
  20. ^ BHP Billiton offers funds advancement for cyclone-hit Port Hedland, ABC News Online, 2007-03-19.

References 13-16 do not lead to the quoted source.

External links[edit]