16 - 28 March 2004
The low that was to become TC Fay developed in the Gulf of Carpentaria and moved westward into the Timor Sea where it was named as a cyclone at 8pm CST on the 16th 400 kilometres north of Wyndham. Strong to gale force winds were reported along the northern Kimberley coast as Fay remained seawards coming within 135 km of Kalumburu at 6pm on the 18th before moving away from the coast.
The cyclone steadily intensified reaching peak intensity late on the 21st approximately 280 km north northwest of Cape Leveque when wind gusts near the centre were estimated to be about 300 km/h (Severity Category 5). Fay continued moving in a general west southwest direction until the 23rd when it abruptly turned to the south southeast toward the west Kimberley coast and weakened to a category 2 system. Early on the 25th Fay re-intensified to category 3 and approached to within 90 kilometres of Broome before taking on a more southwesterly track. Broome experienced strong winds with gale-force gusts, some heavy rain and heavy seas but escaped serious damage.
Fay then headed further away from the coast on the 25th before resuming a general southerly track on the 26th crossing the Pilbara coast between the pastoral stations of Pardoo and Wallal between 8am and 9am WST on Saturday the 27th as a Category 4 storm with estimated maximum wind gusts of around 235 km/h near the centre.
The cyclone began weakening as it moved further inland. It passed close to the Yarrie mine where accomodation units were blown over and some other structural damage occurred. Fay appears to have weakened below cyclone strength on Sunday evening between Nullagine and Telfer.
Little damage was reported from the storm despite its intensity as it made landfall in a remote part of the WA coast and consequently only made impact on sparsely populated pastoral and mining areas. The resultant heavy rain caused flooding in the De Grey and Oakover river systems. Parts of Nullagine were evacuated because of a potential flood. Floodwaters inundated the Mulyie station homestead on the 30th.
Unfortunately the cyclone did not pass over any wind or pressure recording sites during its lifetime. Troughton Island, off the north Kimberley coast, recorded gales for a ten hour period overnight on the 18th. Gales occurred at Bedout Island, northeast of Port Hedland, for a period overnight on the 25/26 and then continuously from 8am on the 26th until 11am on the 27th as Fay passed within 100 kilometres to the east.
Heavy rainfall was recorded along its track and several Pilbara sites recorded accumulated falls in excess of 200mm. Telfer recorded 24 hour falls of 159mm to 9am on the 28th and 200mm to 9am on the 29th. Many coastal sites in the Northern Territory and Kimberley also recorded falls in excess of 100mm.
The images below show Fay as it was off the Kimberley coast on the 21st and then off the Pilbara coast on the 26th both having distinctive eye patterns.
Visible image at 1:40pm 21 March 2004 when centre located just north of Kimberley coast.
Visible image at 1:55pm 26 March when centre located off Pilbara coast.Images from Aqua satellite received by Bureau of Meteorology courtesy of NASA GSFC.
TC Fay was first captured on Broome radar on the 24th and then on Port Hedland radar as it approached the coast on the 26th until its weakening stages over inland areas. The images below show Fay as it was at 1:40am WST on the 25th 100 kilometres west of Broome and at 8:40am on the 27th crossing the coast 160 kilometres east northeast of Port Hedland. The images highlight the variations caused by attenuation of the radar signal through heavy rain
Broome radar at 1:40pm 25 March 2004
Port Hedland radar at 8:40am 27 March 2004