Aaron Bunch Journalist with Australian Associated Press | Collection of published work | + 61 484 008 119 | abunch@aap.com.au

Aaron Bunch
NT residents shelter in path of cyclone

Residents from communities in the north are sheltering in Darwin and Katherine in the largest evacuation before a cyclone in the NT’s history.

March 22, 2019

The last family has been evacuated from the tiny Northern Territory town of Borroloola ahead of Cyclone Trevor, as the powerful weather system intensifies to category three and picks up speed.

Speaking from her family’s car as they sped inland away from the approaching storm, Christine Sauer said only the local police and utilities workers remain in the community of about 900 people.

“They’re about to switch off the power and water then they’re leaving too,” she told AAP on Friday.

“You’re not going to sit there for a category four cyclone.”

Ms Sauer and her family, who run the town’s local shop and service station, plan to sit Cyclone Trevor out at a friend’s cattle station about 170 kilometres away.

“We hope we’re safe but it’s not the first cyclone we’ve seen in our 25 years here,” she said.

The Bureau of Meteorology has warned the massive storm is likely to become a category four tropical cyclone pushing gale-force winds, rain and tidal surges 300 kilometres out from its core, late on Friday.

Dangerous waves, tides and flooding will precede the destructive core which is expected to have wind gusts of up to 275 km/h when it smashes into the mainland between Groote Eylandt and the NT-Queensland border on Saturday.

About 2000 residents worried about their homes and pets were evacuated by road and on Australia Defence Force cargo planes from Borroloola, Numbulwar, Groote Eylandt and other indigenous communities.

Buses, vehicles, ferries, planes and helicopters were used during the mass evacuation as a state of emergency was declared in the Gulf country on Thursday.

It is the largest evacuation prior to a cyclone in the territory’s history and the largest type of any evacuation since Cyclone Tracy in 1974.

Tent cities have been set up in Darwin and Katherine for evacuees.

The severity and threat of the storm, as well as the remoteness of the area, led to the decision to evacuate, Chief Minister Michael Gunner said on Thursday.

Trevor left behind a  trail of damage in Queensland’s Cape York peninsula earlier this week, uprooting trees, causing flooding and roof damage, closing schools and roads, and knocking out power supplies.

Ergon Energy crews are flying to the community of Aurukun where about half the community remains without power.

Mayor Dereck Walpo told AAP that despite the ongoing rain and lack of electricity, people were in “high spirits” and the majority of buildings had come through the cyclone undamaged.

“The worst has come on gone and everyone has a smile on their dial,” he said.

A dangerous storm tide is expected in coastal areas between Groote Eylandt, Burketown and the NT/Queensland Border from Friday afternoon.

Gales with gusts to 120 km/h are expected to develop on Groote Eylandt and Mornington and Sweers Islands from Friday afternoon and extend to the mainland coast between Cape Shield to Karumba on Friday night.

The gales will move into the eastern Carpentaria and northern Barkly districts and northwest Gulf country on Saturday morning. 

Inland locations likely to be impacted by wild winds and rain include Doomadgee, Creswell Downs, Cape Crawford, Robinson River and Wollogorang.

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