Tropical Cyclone Neil

24 February - 6 March 1981


Tropical cyclone Neil was the only cyclone of the season to cross the Western Australian coast.

About mid-February, the monsoon trough moved southward and became established over the Kimberley. A semi-permanent low formed in the trough south of Broome and large cloud clusters developed in association with this low. Initially these moved out to sea and weakened. Gradually the low became better developed and on 24 February a cloud cluster moving out to sea showed strong signs of cyclonic development. The low moved westward and deepened into tropical cyclone Neil on 25 February.

The cyclone continued to intensify over the next few days as it travelled over warm tropical waters. reaching peak intensity late on the 28th with an estimated central pressure of 940 hPa and maximum winds of about 180 km/h.

On 2 March Neil recurved to the southeast as it came under the influence of a strong cold front located to its south. On 4 and 5 March it accelerated and crossed the upper west coast just south of Point Cloutes at approximately 1500 UTC (11 pm WST) 5 March. At the time of landfall Neil was moving east-southeast at about 40 km/h with an estimated central pressure of 980 hPa.

As the storm moved inland it weakened, but it was still intense enough to cause gale force winds along its track up to 500 km from the coast. Neil finally hecame a rain bearing depression on 6 March when it was located about 170 km south of Newman.

There were no major towns in the path of cyclone Neil and damage reported by station homesteads was minor. Several station windmills and water tanks were blown over, trees were snapped, and there was minor damage to buildings. The Kumarina Motel on the Great Northern Highway had estimated winds of 120 km/h which caused the roof of a store to cave in.

Neil passed about 80 km to the south of the Learmonth Meteorological Office and the storm's centre was tracked continuously by the radar during 5 March. The highest wind gust recorded at Learmonth was 104 km/h from the north northwest at 1437 UTC 5 March, the pressure at this time being 1000 hPa.

Heavy rain fell in the Gascoyne River basin but was not sufficient to cause any major flooding. A few stations reported 48-hour falls in excess of 100 mm, the highest being 106 mm at Gifford and Waroora. Some local flooding occurred, temporarily isolating stations, cutting unsealed roads, and flooding parts of the North West Highway.

Two cars were swept away at flooded creek crossings and one driver was nearly drowned. He was rescued by a helicopter after being marooned for three days.

Track and intensity

Best Track of Tropical Cyclone Neil