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    St. Patrick's Day Hurricane Threat for Australia

    By By Kristina Pydynowski, Senior Meteorologist
    March 18, 2012, 11:21:03 AM EDT

    St. Patrick Day's will be far from festive in North West Australia with hurricane-strength Tropical Cyclone Lua set to slam onshore.

    Friday evening (local time, Friday morning EDT), Lua was churning off the coast of Australia with the strength of a Category 1 hurricane.

    The warm waters of the Indian Ocean will help Lua's strength increase to that of a strong Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds between 100 and 110 mph (160 and 175 kph) prior to the cyclone's St. Patrick's Day landfall.

    The AccuWeather.com Hurricane Center has pinpointed Lua's landfall to midday Saturday (local time) near or just east of Port Hedland.

    Destructive winds, flooding rain and inundating surf will accompany the cyclone onshore.

    "Winds will diminish [Saturday night, local time] as Lua continues to move south across Western Australia. However, very heavy rainfall will continue along the path of the storm," stated AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Tony Zartman.

    "Rainfall amounts along Lua's path will reach 5 to 10 inches (12 to 25 cm) through the weekend, resulting in flash flooding," Zartman continued.

    Even though Lua has yet to make landfall, it is already having an economical impact on Australia.

    Bloomberg reports that the cyclone has forced companies to halt production at offshore oil fields that account for more than one-quarter of Australia's oil output.

    Shipping of iron ore has been interrupted with the closure of Port Hedland in anticipation of Lua.

    Lua is not the only adverse weather threatening Australia this St. Patrick's Day.

    Zartman is concerned that an area of disturbed weather will unleash locally heavy rainfall across northern parts of the Northern Territory into northern Queensland through the weekend with the Cape York Peninsula especially at risk.

    However, a twin of Tropical Cyclone Lua will not form from this disturbed weather. Tropical development, if any, will be slow due to the disturbed weather's proximity to land.

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