Severe Tropical Cyclone Vance

18 - 24 March 1999


As the circulation associated with tropical cyclone Elaine moved slowly west, another low within the monsoon trough, which persisted over the north coast of Australia near Darwin for several days, moved into the Timor Sea. The low-level circulation, favourably situated beneath the upper ridge in a region of weak wind shear quickly intensified to become cyclone Vance. Vance moved quite steadily west-southwest at first, then towards the southwest during the 20th and 21st March. It intensified steadily and was declared a severe Category 3 cyclone late on 19 March. It was further upgraded to a Category 5 (the highest category) overnight on 20 March. The Perth TCWC posted the first cyclone warning for the Exmouth/Onslow area at 10am on Saturday 20 March.

Late on 21 March the cyclone changed track to a due southerly course towards the Exmouth/Onslow area. The eye of the cyclone passed across Exmouth Gulf, approximately 25 kilometres to the east of Exmouth and 80 kilometres to the west of Onslow during Monday morning 22nd March. A record wind gust speed for the Australian mainland of 267 kilometres per hour was recorded at the Learmonth Meteorological Office, 35 kilometres south of Exmouth shortly before midday. At Onslow the maximum gust recorded was 174 kilometres per hour. The combination of very high seas and high tides caused severe erosion of the beachfront at Exmouth. At Onslow the storm tide left 3 large barges stranded on the edge of Beadon Creek. The cyclone crossed the southern part of Exmouth Gulf around 1pm then moved further inland and began to weaken. By the morning of 23 March it was near the town of Mount Magnet and was moving southeast at 50 kilometres per hour. There was damage to property in the town of Cue when winds struck the town at around 4am.

Vance was downgraded to a Cat.1 and passed to the northeast of Kalgoorlie around 3pm. Rain from the decaying cyclone caused flooding in the southern Goldfields. The main highway and the rail link to the eastern states were both cut by floodwaters. It moved into waters of the Great Australian Bight in the early hours of the 24th. The remnants of Vance caused gale force winds over parts of South Australia and Victoria later that day.

For more details see the TC Vance Report (pdf)

Track and intensity

Best Track of Severe Tropical Cyclone Vance

Satellite and radar Images

The image below shows the eye of Vance in Exmouth Gulf at 10:30am 22 March.

Satellite image

The image below shows the Learmonth radar image at 10:10am 22 March.

Radar image