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26 December 2011

Cyclone Grant avoids Darwin

Small communities on Australia's north coast have experienced the full force of Tropical Cyclone Grant but Darwin appears to have been spared from the storm, which is weakening.

A Cyclone Warning notice for Darwin and many other areas was cancelled on Monday morning, as the storm continued to track southeasterly and gradually weaken.

"We really don't anticipate anything significant for Darwin," said assistant director of weather services with the Bureau of Meteorology, Alasdair Hainsworth.

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But Mr Hainsworth said small communities overnight had experienced the full force of the Category 2 storm. Those affected included Minjilang, a community of about 300 people on Croker Island.

He said wind strength recorded at the nearby McCluer Island was 120kmh at 6pm (CST) on Sunday, with strong sustained winds between 4.30pm (CST) and 7pm (CST).

A police station at Minjilang, about 230km northeast of Darwin, could not immediately be contacted on Monday, but according to a report on ABC Radio late on Sunday the community had escaped serious damage.

Mr Hainsworth said by early Monday afternoon the storm was expected to have weakened below cyclone strength.

The storm's centre now had made landfall east of Point Stuart and was bearing down on the communities of Jabiru and Oenpelli, where authorities have opened public cyclone shelters.

"In those areas there is still some strong winds but today it is expected to moderate," Mr Hainsworth said.

A cyclone warning shortly before 5am (CST) said destructive winds with gusts to 130kmh were being experienced over the southeastern Van Diemen Gulf and adjacent coast.

Residents in those areas have been warned of a dangerous storm tide, and a flood warning remains in force for the northern Darwin-Daly, Arnhem and northern Roper-McArthur Districts.

The weakening storm will be welcome news for people wanting to travel on what is traditionally a busy day for holiday makers.

- AAP