Severe Tropical Cyclone Veronica takes aim at Australia's Pilbara Coast

By Eric Leister, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
March 22, 2019, 1:22:48 AM EDT

In less than 24 hours, Veronica went from an unnamed tropical low to a Category 4 intense tropical cyclone as it spun off the northwestern coastline of Western Australia. The powerful cyclone is now taking aim at the Pilbara Coast.

Further strengthening is expected as Veronica turns southward toward the Australia coastline into Saturday.

Veronica may become a Category 5 tropical cyclone (the equivalent of a strong Category 4 hurricane in the Atlantic or eastern Pacific oceans) for a time late this week.

While the cyclone may be past its peak intensity, it can still target the Pilbara Coast this weekend as a Category 4 cyclone.

The extent of damage for the region will depend on if Veronica makes landfall and how far inland it tracks.

Regardless, a portion of the Pilbara Coast will face storm surge flooding, destructive coastal winds and flooding rain, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dave Houk.

The most widespread dangers would occur if Veronica makes a direct landfall along the northern coastline of Western Australia in between Pardoo and Gnoorea.

Veronica dangers March 21

Locations such as Karratha, Balla Balla and Port Hedland could be at risk for the worst impacts from Veronica in this scenario.

Rough surf and seas will build along the coast ahead of Veronica's arrival into Saturday.

The outer bands of the cyclone may begin to reach the coast by the end of Saturday with conditions to deteriorate Saturday night into Sunday as it moves onshore as a Category 4 severe tropical cyclone with winds equal to a Category 3 or 4 hurricane in the Atlantic and east Pacific oceans.

Areas near and along Veronica's track will be at risk for life-threatening flooding and damaging winds capable of damaging homes, knocking down trees and causing widespread power cuts and travel disruptions.

Satellite image March 21

Satellite image of Intense Tropical Cyclone Veronica tracking near Western Australia on Thursday morning, local time. Courtesy of the Australia Bureau of Meteorology.

"Veronica is expected to rapidly slow its forward motion as it either approaches the coast or soon after landfall," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski. "That would prolong the danger for life-threatening flooding over a part of the Pilbara Coast."

"Even if Veronica and its most destructive winds never make landfall, flooding rain can continue to stream onshore with an extended period of inundating seas pounding the coast," she added. "That can lead to extensive coastal flooding and beach erosion."

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Anyone in Veronica's potential path should make preparations for the storm now and check back for updates.

Download the free AccuWeather app to monitor the potential for severe weather conditions in your community.

Regardless of where Veronica stalls, it should weaken early next week and gradually track to the west.

On the other side of the nation, Tropical Cyclone Trevor will bring a more widespread risk for flooding across central Australia.

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