Cyclone Watch for Australia North West

March 15, 2012; 4:01 PM ET
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High wind threat from Tropical Cyclone Lua, a tropical storm gathering strength off Australia's North West at midweek, has prompted an official Tropical Cyclone Watch along a lengthy stretch of coast.

Lua could ultimately unleash destructive winds and flooding rain along the Pilbara Coast.

Wednesday, Australia's Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) posted the watch for the Western Australia coast between Mardie and Cape Leveque. The watch was for the threat of gales within 24 to 48 hours.

Wednesday evening, local time, the BoM located Lua about 490 miles northwest of Port Hedland, Western Australia. Having highest sustained winds near 100 km/h (50 knots), Lua was classed a "Category 2" cyclone on the BoM cyclone intensity scale.

Drifting somewhat erratically, Lua was forecast to hold well offshore through Thursday, according to the BoM. Later, a much-strengthened Cyclone Lua was expected to track south and east, potentially landing Friday as a dangerous storm along the Pilbara Coast, as the region is known.

Depending upon the path of Lua, offshore oil and gas production could be interrupted.

Onshore, impact will hang on the whereabouts of a landfall, as much of the Pilbara Coast is all but uninhabited. A strong landfalling cyclone would be capable of widespread wind damage, flooding rain and tidal inundation.

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