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Satellite image of Cyclone Orson near peak intensity

Severe Tropical Cyclone Orson was the fourth most intense cyclone ever recorded in the Australian region. Forming out of a tropical low on 17 April 1989, Orson gradually intensified as it tracked towards the west. After attaining Category 5 intensity on 20 April, the storm began to track southward and accelerated. The following day, the cyclone reached its peak intensity with winds of 250 km/h (155 mph 10-minute sustained) and a barometric pressure of 904 hPa (mbar). Orson maintained this intensity for nearly two days before making landfall near Dampier. The cyclone rapidly weakened after landfall as it accelerated to the southeast. After moving into the Great Australian Bight on 24 April, the storm dissipated.

Despite Orson's extreme intensity, damage was relatively minimal as it struck a sparsely populated region of Western Australia. Five people were killed offshore and damages amounted to A$20 million (US$16.8 million). The storm damaged a new gas platform that explored a possible oil field, believed to contain nearly 200 million gallons of oil. The damage delayed the project for nearly two weeks. The most severe impacts took place in Pannawonica, where 70 homes were damaged. Following the storm, clean up costs reached A$5 million (US$4.1 million). Due to the severity of the storm, the name Orson was retired in 1990 and later replaced by Olga.


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