Severe Tropical Cyclone Kerry

19 -24 January 1973


Kerry was the third tropical cyclone of the season and was the second to develop off the northwest coast of Western Australia. This cyclone was the most noteworthy of the season as it was the only one to cross the northwestern Australian coast and move inland. Although Kerry was a severe storm it did not pass directly over any densely populated areas. Effects however were felt over a large part of the Northwest Shelf, the Pilbara, and the east Gascoyne. The estimated structural damage caused by cyclone Kerry was close to $2 million and the loss of production and man-hours over $5 million.

Kerry brought heavy rain to the De Frey, East Gascoyne, Northeast Division and Goldfields. Total falls to between 50 and 100 mm were common with a few recordings of between 150 and 300 mm. The greatest totals tended to occur on the eastern side of the cyclone's track. The highest cumulative totals for the period 19th to 25th January were Windidda 310 mm, Warrambie 254+ mm, Lorna Glen 276 mm, Millrose 241 mm, Bandya 221 mm, Hooley 207 mm, Wittenoon 218 mm, Rhodes Ridge 215 mm, Prenti Downs 209 mm.

The intensity of rain over the land was such that run-off was substantial and lead to flooding in many low lying areas. The effects of this were noticeable in the coastal towns of Port Hedland and Roebourne. Flooding occurred in most rivers and streams from the De Grey to the Fortescue. Many travellers were stranded, including 60 people at Whim Creek for about a fortnight. After the floods had subsided further delays were experienced as a result of erosion damage to road surfaces. Serious washaways on the Mt Newman to Port Hedland railway resulted in a stoppage of the railway traffic for 16 days and a repair cost of over $900,000. The mine ceased working for only seven hours but because of delivery delays the estimated production loss was $4 million. In the central parts of the State flooding was widespread. The area between Wiluna and Lake Carnegie was described as a 'huge lake'.

Cyclone Kerry was important because it passed close to a number of oil drilling rigs, crossed the coast and then retained its intensity for a further 2 days while travelling well inland. Winds, seas and flooding all caused damage to various installations. Hurricane force winds and very heavy seas buffeted the oil rigs causing three of them to lose some of there mooring anchors. Seas broke into the power room on the 'Big John' rendering most of its generators inoperable. Other machinery was also damaged or lost by the sea action. On the whole, however, damage sustained by the rigs was not as costly as the operating time lost. In the drilling company estimates cyclone Maud is linked with Kerry for in the case of two of the rigs the lost time periods merged. For the two cyclones the cost to the company was over $1.5 million of which more than 90 per cent was unproductive-time cost.

Near Port Hedland a youth was drowned in the heavy seas while surfing. Part of the roof of the South Hedland primary school was ripped off, and the roof of the High School was lifted. Another school which suffered damage was St Ceclia's Convent School where two walls of a classroom were levelled. Extensive sand damage to ocean front houses was reported. Paintwork to most buildings suffered in the blast and tons of sand were dumped on front lawns and against fences. At least two cars were buried. Small craft were flung out of the water and one tug was beached further south at Mistaken Island. A local plant nursery suffered damage estimated at more than $5000 resulting from the wind damaging stock and uprooted trees destroying shade houses. Power lines were brought down and some of the steel pylons were twisted. The State Public Works Department estimated the cost of repairs to items under its control at $16,000 and repairs to local council concerns were costed at $10,000. Leslie Salt Co. estimated repairs to its earthworks to cost about $40,000. Near Roebourne the coaxial cable repeater station was flooded causing telecommunication difficulties throughout the Northwest for some hours. At Wickham more than 30 houses were partly unroofed while some experienced major damage.

At Mundiwindi roofing to several houses was loosened. One surveyor's caravan was written off after being washed into a creek near Wiluna.

For more details see the TC Kerry Report (pdf).

Track and intensity

Best Track of Severe Tropical Cyclone Kerry