Tropical Cyclone Rosita

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17 - 21 April 2000


TC Rosita was one of the most severe tropical cyclones to cross the west Kimberley coast in the last 100 years. It crossed the coast as a category 5 cyclone 40 kilometres south of Broome at 0100 WST 20 April. Rosita was a small but very powerful cyclone. It's region of very destructive winds passed south of Broome by only 15 kilometres or so. Severe structural damage occurred at the Eco Beach tourist resort and at nearby Thangoo and Yardoogarra Stations.

In Broome the maximum wind gust was 153 kilometres per hour. Although there was extensive damage to trees in the town most buildings remained unscathed. Power supplies were cut to many parts of the town for a period of several days. After crossing the coast it moved southeast across the north of the Great Sandy desert passing across the community of Balgo Hills around 2200 WST 20 April approximately 700 kilometres inland.

The eye of severe TC Rosita over the coast 40 km south of Broome at 12.40 am 20 April 2000. Clickhere to see radar loop (562 KB) .

Track and Intensity

Rosita started as a weak low in the Timor sea on 14 April. It moved west southwest during 15 April and then turned southward during 16-17 April. It was estimated to have reached tropical cyclone strength about 1800 WST 17 April. On the morning of the 18 April a ship passed very close to the cyclone centre with a relatively high pressure of 997 hPa but reported near storm force winds. Rosita then entered a very favourable environment and rapidly developed from late on the 18th through the 19th as it swung towards the east southeast towards the coast. It reached category 5 intensity as it neared landfall, crossing the coast just after midnight on the 20th. Rosita then accelerated to about 30km/h and weakened only gradually over the Great Sandy Desert.

Rosita was a small cyclone with a radius to gales about half the average for cyclones in northwest Australia. The core of very destructive winds extended only about 25 kilometres from the centre.

Track of Rosita.

Click on image to enlarge.

Infra red satellite image showing eye of Rosita at landfall. Courtesy of Japan Meteorological Agency.

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The greatest impact coincided with the core of very destructive winds within 25 km of the crossing point, about 40 kilometres to the south of Broome.

The main homestead on Thangoo station (28 kilometres to the south southeast of Broome) received only minor structural damage but was in the region of the maximum storm surge. Thangoo is about 2.5 kilometres inland from coastal mangroves. The Station owner reported that the station front gate and fencing had debris deposited up to the second top strand, about 1 metre above ground level. The cyclone crossed the coast 2 hours after the time of the high tide. If it had crossed at high hide sea water may have washed through the homestead. Another station homestead 7 kilometres to the west was sheltered by coastal dunes and escaped significant structural damage. It was estimated the debris line from storm surge on the northern side of the dunes was 5 to 6 metres above sea level.

The most severe structural damage occurred in the region of Cape Villaret some 40 kilometres to the south southwest of Broome. The Eco-beach tourist resort was devastated, as was nearby Yardoogarra station. The station owners, Patricia and John Grey, spent a terrifying night battling to save their lives. They firstly sheltered in the homestead (see Photo. 3) but when the western walls of the homestead collapsed and the roof began to lift they decided to move to an adjacent brick and iron outhouse. Patricia told of being picked up and tossed by the wind. She then crawled back to the house, placed a weight on her back and crawled to the outhouse. This building remained fairly well unscathed, but according to John the brick walls were bulging inwards and he feared they would collapse at any time. They experienced the eye of the cyclone for a period of between 1/4 and 1/2 an hour before the very destructive winds returned with even greater ferocity.

The area around the homestead appeared to be totally devastated. A caravan parked between the outhouse and the homestead blew away and disintegrated. A Volvo semi-trailer was blown on to its side. All vegetation in the area was stripped totally bare of leaf material. The damage to vegetation in the area seemed to be more severe than the tree damage at Exmouth following cyclone Vance. About 50-60 kilometres of fencing on the station was pushed over. All windmills were destroyed . It was estimated that 200 head of cattle were lost, most drowned by the storm surge. The swathe of severe destruction to the vegetation was estimated to be only 15-20 kilometres wide.

The Eco Beach tourist resort some 5 kilometres to the west of Yardoogarra was devastated. The resort had been built to withstand Category 3 winds. Only about 10 out of the 40 accommodation huts remained. The main restaurant and bar was demolished and the reception centre was very badly damaged. The centre of the cyclone passed just to the north of the settlement and the most destructive winds were from the south. It appeared as if some of the huts had become airborne and smashed into other buildings. A sea container that weighed 2.5 tonne and was filled with 2-3 tonne of equipment was blown 700 metres across a row of sand dunes and into the resort area. The extent of the devastation to the vegetation in this area gave the impression that a major bushfire had passed through the region.

In the town of Broome the maximum wind gust recorded was 153 kilometres per hour (equivalent to Category 2 cyclone impact). There was considerable damage to trees in the town. Particularly badly affected were African Mahogany trees which were either snapped off or uprooted by the winds. There was severe erosion to parts of Cable Beach. An area of the previously sandy beach was completely covered by rocks. There was very little property damage.

There was evidence of severe coastal erosion of the coastal topography just to the south of Broome on the eastern side of Roebuck Bay (see photo 3). Further to the south there was clear evidence that the storm surge had breached the coastal dunes (see photo 5).

Damage Photos

Photo 1. The remains of the Eco Beach Resort Reception Centre.

Photo 2. Total devastation of the restaurant and bar

Photo 3. Erosion along Roebuck Bay.

Photo 4. Devastation to Yardoogarra Station homestead.

Photo 5. Breach of coastal dunes due to storm surge on Thangoo station

Cyclone Parameters at the time of maximum intensity

Date/time: 9 pm 19 April 2000

Latitude: 17.9 °S

Longitude: 121.6 °E

Lowest estimated pressure: 930 hPa

Maximum estimated wind gust : 290 km/h