Severe Tropical Cyclone Leo

24 - 28 March 1977


Cyclone Leo was the fifth and last tropical cyclone of the season. It was the third to occur near the northwest coast of Australia. A pre-existing depression moved off the West Kimberley coast and developed to tropical cyclone intensity as it moved southwestward. When located to the north of Port Hedland it recurved southward and then southeastward and crossed the coast to the east of Port Hedland. It was at its most intense stage when it crossed the coast with a central pressure estimated to be 955 hPa and maximum winds estimated to be 165 km/h.

Over land the highest wind gust reported was 200 km/h at Port Hedland at 0401 WST 27 March when the wind was southerly. This gust occurred when Leo had crossed the coast but was at its closest point to Port Hedland. As Leo approached from the north the southeasterly winds at Port Hedland reached gale force (63 km/h) about 261330 GMT. The winds gradually veered to the south but they did not drop below gale force until about 270200 UTC. At 270400 UTC Marble Bar reported a southeasterly wind of 84 km/h when the cyclone was close by.

Considerable damage was caused by the strong winds and flooding in coastal and nearby inland areas along Leo 's path. Total damage was estimated at about $3 million. The roofs of about 40 houses were damaged in Port Hedland. At Marble Bar and Goldsworthy some roofs were either completely removed or were partly damaged. Windmill damage was sustained at Bamboo Springs and Wallal and presumably at many other stations.

The area of heavy rainfall closely paralleled the track of the cyclone after landfall. The highest 48-hour totals were 375 mm at Lalla Rookh and 228 mm at Strelley. 152 mm fell at Port Hedland in the same period. After the cyclone creeks and rivers in the affected area were reported to be running at high levels; the Coongan River was said to be "at its highest for many years". The Nullagine River was reported in flood, roads near Port Hedland were flooded and serious washaways occurred in the Port Hedland, Goldsworthy and Marble Bar areas. The Port Hedland to Goldsworthy railway was cut by the flood water of the Strelley and De Grey Rivers.

For more details see the TC Leo Report (pdf)

Track and intensity

Best Track of Severe Tropical Cyclone Leo