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25 December 2011

Update: Tropical Cyclone Australia

Cyclone Grant heads to the Northern Territory

People in Australia's Cobourg Peninsula in the Northern Territory are bracing for wild winds and rain as Tropical Cyclone Grant approaches, but Darwin is looking safer as the storm drifts eastwards.

The storm, which officially became Tropical Cyclone Grant about 3.30am on Christmas Day, had tracked easterly during the early hours of Sunday, assistant director of weather services with the Bureau of Meteorology, Alasdair Hainsworth, said.

Remote McCluer Island in the Arafura Sea received gale force winds gusting up to 76km/h, he said, while the Cobourg Peninsula, 200km northeast of Darwin, continued to be in the direct line of the storm.

"It has been pretty wet and wild in that part of the world," Hainsworth said.

"It is reasonably good news for Darwin because it is tracking eastwards and the likelihood of gales (in Darwin) is diminished," he told AAP.

He said forecasters were considering the possibility that Cyclone Grant may continue to drift eastwards without crossing back over water.

Under that scenario the cyclone could weaken considerably, because it wouldn't have time to strengthen again before striking the mainland.

The mainland areas most likely to be hit if it does re-intensify is around the South Alligator River or Jabiru, he said.

On Christmas Day the Category 1 storm looked to be making a beeline towards the Cobourg Peninsula, with strong winds also felt in the neighbouring Tiwi Islands.

It is estimated the eye of the storm will cross over the Cobourg Peninsula about 4am on Boxing Day. General manager of the Seven Spirit Bay Eco-Wilderness Resort on the peninsula, Dave Gyles, said he currently had four guests staying, but preparations for the cyclone were well advanced.

"It (the cyclone path) shows a direct hit on us," he said.

He added there was a cyclone shelter if need be, but given the resort survived extremely powerful winds during Cyclone Ingrid in 2005 he was confident it could withstand another big storm.

An update from the Bureau of Meteorology Sunday morning said the cyclone was 30 nautical miles north-northwest of Croker Island and 135 nautical miles northeast of Darwin.

"Destructive winds with gusts to 130km/h may develop if the cyclone continues to intensify, affecting parts of the coast between Snake Bay and Croker Island tonight," it said.

A high seas weather warning has been issued. On Saturday authorities warned people in the Northern Territory's Top End not to travel around after 6pm on Christmas Day, and to have cyclone kits ready in case of emergency.

People in the Top End and in Darwin have also been cautioned not to drink too much on Christmas Day in case the storm caused havoc.

Thirty-seven years ago Cyclone Tracy destroyed much of Darwin, killing 49 people and a further 22 who perished at sea.


Tropical Cyclone Forecast to Hit Northern Australia Tomorrow

Dec. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Tropical Cyclone Grant, a category one storm with winds gusting to 110 kilometers (68 miles) per hour, is forecast to strike the northern coast of Australia near Darwin tomorrow, 37 years after the city was devastated by a Christmas Day cyclone.

The storm, which may intensify, was about 270 kilometers northeast of Darwin at 2 p.m. in Sydney, moving east-southeast at 7 kilometers an hour, according to the Australian government’s Bureau of Meteorology.

Cyclone Grant is expected to cross the coast east of Darwin tomorrow, the bureau said. Destructive winds with gusts to 130 kilometers per hour may develop as the cyclone continues to intensify, and gales are expected in Darwin, the bureau said.

Darwin, the biggest northern city in Australia, was devastated early on Christmas morning in 1974, when struck by Cyclone Tracy. The eye of the cyclone passed over the city between midnight and 7 a.m., according to the national archives, with winds of 217 kilometers per hour recorded before the Bureau of Meteorology anemometer was destroyed.

About 70 percent of the homes in Darwin were destroyed or suffered severe damage and at least 65 people were killed during the storm, including 16 who were lost at sea, according to the archives.

Darwin, with a population of 127,500 as of June 2010, according to the country’s bureau of statistics, accounted for more than half of the 229,700 population of the Northern Territory.

Heavy rain associated with Cyclone Grant is expected to cause localized flooding over northern Darwin, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

Cyclones are rated in severity from category 1, the weakest, to category 5, the strongest.

- Bloomberg