Monday, April 24, 2006

A big blow heading for Darwin

The Northern Territory is bracing for Monica! It sounds like this could be worse than cyclone Tracy that devastated Darwin years ago.

Warning: cyclone Monica's a monster - National -

As Cyclone Monica bears down on Darwin, the weather bureau has issued a stark warning: "It's as strong as any cyclone we've seen in the Australian region.''

The category five storm, which has wind gusts up to 350 kmh at its core, was 70 kilometres off the coast of Millingimbi in the Northern Territory at 1600 AEDT.

"[From] the analysis we've been doing, [Cyclone Monica] is as strong as any cyclone we've seen in the Australian region,'' said supervising meteorologist Andrew Tupper at Darwin's Bureau of Meteorology.

He said the cyclone is expected to make landfall tonight somewhere between Maningrida and Croker Island - about 350 kilometres from Darwin - before slowly tracking its way towards the Territory's capital.

If the weather bureau's predictions prove correct, Darwin will feel Monica's full force by tomorrow afternoon - but the bureau can't say exactly how strong it will be by then.

"Even if it hits Darwin, we don't expect it to be quite that strong. [It will be] anything between a category three to five,'' he said.

Darwin's Anzac Day march and services cancelled

The cyclone has forced the cancellation of Darwin's Anzac Day march and services.

Darwin RSL manager Mussy Shaw today said the decision was made to protect both marchers and military equipment.

"We made the decision because we didn't want to damage some of the old war equipment we use in the march and obviously we need to protect the people as well," he said.

Mr Shaw said the decision was not made lightly.

"It's Australia's biggest day and we have to cancel it, so people are very upset," Mr Shaw said.

Darwin residents have been urged to secure their homes and stock up on essential supplies.

Monica would prove to be a serious threat even if it weakened, Mr Tupper said.

"Our most optimistic forecast is it will be a category three at Darwin. We're preparing for a category three and a category five would be the most pessimistic.

"A category three cyclone is still a very serious cyclone - we're tracking it very carefully and hoping it will change course.

"We're expecting gales will affect Darwin. There's almost no way around that.

"The edge will hit about dawn tomorrow and the core will approach later in the day.

"Even if the track changes, Darwin will still receive a glancing blow."

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