Severe Tropical Cyclone (TC) George was both very intense and physically large. George was the most destructive cyclone to affect Port Hedland since TC Joan in 1975.
TC George formed on 3 March in the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf. It weakened back to a tropical low as it tracked westwards across the northern Kimberley and then re-intensified shortly after moving offshore into the Indian Ocean on 5 March. George intensified to a Severe Tropical Cyclone (Category 3) on the evening of 7 March and reached Category 5 as it approached the coast. It was still at its maximum intensity when it crossed the coast 50 km northeast of Port Hedland at 10 pm Western Daylight Savings Time (WDT) on Thursday 8 March.
The wind impact was greatest between Wallal and Whim Creek. A 10-minute mean wind of 194 km/h, equivalent to wind gusts of approximately 275 km/h, was recorded offshore at Bedout Island. At Port Hedland Airport, gusts of 154 km/h were recorded around 11 pm WDT prior to equipment failure. It is likely that stronger winds were experienced around midnight, on the outer edge of the band of maximum winds.
Winds decreased markedly as the system tracked inland overnight however George is estimated to have continued to produce "very destructive winds" (Category 3 or higher intensity) until just after 6 am WDT 9 March, at which time it was approximately 115 km south southeast of Port Hedland.
TC George produced large amounts of rain in the northern Kimberley and the Northern Territory earlier in its lifecycle. Upon approaching the Pilbara coast, substantial (but not exceptional) falls occurred. A lack of previous rainfall and the steady movement of George prevented significant flooding. However, the passage of TC Jacob within days of George caused additional rainfall resulting in accumulated falls over 200 mm across parts of the central and eastern Pilbara. The rain caused road closures on most roads through the area except for the Great Northern Highway.
Reported impacts include three fatalities and numerous injuries at locations south of Port Hedland. Less than two percent of buildings in the greater Port Hedland area (i.e. including South Hedland) sustained structural damage. The majority of damaged buildings were later identified as having weaknesses due to poor maintenance and it is notable that the majority of housing stock withstood the wind gusts, which were estimated to have reached around 200 km/h. The Bureau's Port Hedland radar dome sustained damage.
For more details see the TC George Report (pdf).
Track and intensity
All times in UTC - add 9 hours to convert to WDT.
- Maximum Winds
- 194 km/h (105 knots) at Bedout Island at 19:00 WDT 8 March.
- 113 km/h (61 knots) at Port Hedland at 22:51 WDT gusting to 154 km/h (83 knots) around 11:00 pm WDT 8 March
- Note: Port Hedland wind speed data is missing during the time of closest approach, so it is very likely the actual peak winds experienced were stronger than the values reported above. Based on the failure of simple structures peak wind gusts in the Port Hedland area were estimated at approximately 200 km/h.
- 131 km/h (71 knots) Sustained winds (10 minute) at Legendre Island at 18:00 WST 9 January.
- Daily Rainfall
- 24 hour rainfall to 9am 9 March
- 140 mm at Derby
- 131 mm at Pardoo
- 24 hour rainfall to 9am 10 March
- 110 mm at Warrawagine.
- 205 mm at Roebourne
- 93 mm at Telfer
Rainfall in WA during the first half of March, including the rainfall produced by George and Jacob
Satellite and radar Images
The image below shows George off the Pilbara coast as it was intensifying on 8 March.
Satellite image of TC George at 10:55 am WDT 8 March (image courtesy of NASA).
The image below shows the last radar image before the radar failed as George crossed the coastline.
Radar image of TC George at 10:10 pm WDT 8 March.