Tropical Cyclone Olivia

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5-11 April 1996


TC Olivia was an intense cyclone that crossed the Pilbara coast near Mardie station between Onslow and Dampier. Damage was reported from offshore islands, Mardie (on the coast) and inland at Pannawonica where many houses sustained major damage.

Barrow Island measured a wind gust of 408 km/h on 10 April establishing a new world record for the highest wind speed ever recorded. Despite this extreme wind gust, the average maximum winds near the centre near peak intensity are estimated at category 4 intensity. Olivia also caused wind gusts to 267 km/h at Varanus Island and 257 km/h at Mardie station.

Track and Intensity

Olivia initially developed north of Darwin reaching cyclone intensity on 5 April north of the Kimberley before heading to the west and intensifying. It later tracked southwards towards the Pilbara coast reaching peak intensity late on 9 April off the coast. It accelerated to the south-southeast crossing the coast at near peak intensity at 8:30 pm WST on 10 April near Mardie station. Olivia continued to track to the southeast and weakened to a low later on 11 April when it was north of Laverton, though it continued to produce gale-force winds on the north east flank even as far south as Forrest, near the Great Australian Bight. It passed into the Great Australian Bight near Eucla on the morning of 12 April and was then absorbed into a southern trough system.

Track of Olivia.

Click on image to enlarge.

Infra red satellite image showing eye of Olivia at landfall.

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Courtesy Japan Meteorological Agency


Mardie and other surrounding stations suffered extensive damage to their properties. Pannawonica, located 90 kilometres inland from Mardie recorded gusts to 158 km/h and was extensively damaged. Even as Olivia passed Paraburdoo after midnight, it still produced gusts to 140 km/h.

Many sites registered over 100 mm of rain, such as Red Hill station (168.4 mm), but flooding was not signficant.

Damage Photos

Photo 1. Buildings damaged by Tropical Cyclone Olivia, Varanus Island.

Copyright: Apache Energy.

Photo 2. House damage in Pannawonica.

Photograph: Dave Button.

Copyright: Pilbara Iron.

Photo 3. House damage in Pannawonica.

Photograph: Dave Button.

Copyright: Pilbara Iron.

Photo 4. Electricity pylon near Pannawonica.

Photograph: Dave Button.

Copyright: Pilbara Iron.