Tropical cyclone threatens Australia's Arnhem Land

Surprisingly violent storm intensifying over Gulf of Carpentaria in Australia's north.

    Tropical cyclone threatens Australia's Arnhem Land
    Tropical cyclones bring the triple threat of torrential rain, violent winds and a storm surge [EPA]

    A new tropical cyclone is intensifying and threatening Australia’s third biggest island.

    Tropical cyclones are generally bad news in that they bring the triple threat of torrential rain, violent winds and a storm surge. For an island, the storm surge - a hump of lifted ocean - is often the most destructive force.

    The cyclone, named Lam, is currently a category two storm and is heading towards the eastern peninsular of Arnhem Land, the northernmost region of Australia's Northern Territory.

    Coastal residents on the mainland have been warned of a “very dangerous storm tide”, with “damageing waves and very dangerous flooding”.

    The Australian Bureau of Meteorology expects the storm to intensify to a category four storm by the time it squeezes between Groote Eylandt and the mainland on Friday. Groote Eylandt is exposed in the western Gulf of Carpentaria.

    Tourists leaving area

    The general manager of the Dugong Beach Resort on Groote Eylandt, Dennis Winchester, said a significant number of guests had brought forward plans to depart the island.

    A category four storm is the second-highest category for cyclones, and is powerful enough to blow away caravans and cause widespread power failures, with gusts up to 279kph. This is the worst case scenario and as it is moving at only 7kph, the accuracy of its path is known to be in doubt.

    Whichever way this tropical cyclone goes, it will intensify first and should bring much rain to the inhabitants of this remote part of northern Australia.

    A barramundi fishing boat, skippered by Craig van Lawick, is motoring north, towards the cyclone, in order to find shelter, yet the 50-foot steel-hulled boat could still be in great danger. "Last time we had a category one in the Walker [River] our anchor chain actually snapped," he said. "If it gets to [category] four I don't know.”

    Barramundi fisherman Gary Ward says he’s gearing up for the third disappointing wet season in a row. A last minute "flush out" of the Gulf rivers was the only thing he predicted would improve his catch.

    "Generally you need that big flush, not necessarily the first flush, but a continuous flush for weeks and it cleans everything out and gets the food chain moving, and gets the barramundi biting," he said.

    There is often a silver lining to the dark clouds of a gathering storm and this is one of them.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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