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Somerset Squall

Severe Tropical Cyclone Lua

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A tropical disturbance lingering off the Pilbara Coast of NW Australia has developed into Tropical Cyclone Lua, with an initial intensity of 35kts. Deep convection is persisting over the LLC, which is flanked by developing banding features. Lua is in a favourable environment for intensification with low shear of around 10kts, warm sea surface temperatures and well developed dual outflow channels at the upper levels. Lua's large size will probably prevent rapid intensification however. A developing tropical disturbance to the northeast may well cause some subsidence over the Lua too.

The cyclone is trapped in a weak steering environment so Lua will move little over the next day or so. Eventually, subtropical ridging to the north will win out, forcing Lua back southeastwards towards Port Hedland. The timing is uncertain due to the weak and complex steering environment, so the track forecast will probably chop and change in the coming few days.

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Lua has strengthened to 60kts. The cyclone has well developed banding features and deep, centralised convection. Moderate shear is being negated by excellent upper level outflow, resulting in the observed intensification. Shear will ease, and now Lua is a more compact storm some fairly quick intensification may occur. JTWC's estimated peak of 90kts prior to landfall near Port Hedland, Australia may well turn out too low. Lua is a dangerous storm which has the potential to be quite damaging to the Pilbara Coast. Lua is currently drifting slowly northwards but the turn southeastwards back towards the coast is expected to begin in the next 12hrs.

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Lua has continued to strengthen. Intensity is up to 70kts, making Lua a cat 1 on the SS scale. Intense convection persists over the LLC, and there have been fleeting glimpses of an eye from time to time. Lua is moving eastwards and will complete the turn and move towards the southeast soon. Landfall location has moved a little further east in the last advisory, but anywhere between Port Hedland and Broome need to prepare for some damaging winds and heavy rain in a couple days time. Lua is expected to continue strengthening right up until landfall. JTWC forecast a landfall intensity of 90kts.

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Lua is rapidly deepening. Intensity has risen to 90kts a good 12 hours ahead of expectations. Convection has exploded and expanded- Lua is now a huge system alredy spreading flooding rains well away from the centre. Lua may strengthen further before landfall.

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NASA Sees Cyclone Lua Strengthening for March 17 Landfall

Northern Australia's Pilbara coast is under warnings, alerts and watches as powerful Cyclone Lua nears for a landfall. NASA's Aqua satellite has been providing infrared, visible and microwave data on Lua that have shown forecasters the storm is strengthening on its approach to land.

Two of the most recent infrared images of Cyclone Lua were captured from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument onboard NASA's Aqua satellite. The AIRS instrument captured infrared images of Cyclone Lua on March 15 at 1741 UTC and March 16 at 0553 UTC. The later image appeared to show that Lau was becoming more organized and more compact, signs that the storm was strengthening. Bands of thunderstorms are also wrapping into the low-level center, another sign of strengthening. Over that time period the storm had grown from a tropical storm to a cyclone. Aqua captured an infrared image of the storm's cloud top temperatures using the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument. AIRS data showed that the coldest (purple) cloud top temperatures (colder than -63F/-52.7C).

The list of warnings, watches and alerts are numerous. A Cyclone Warning is current for coastal areas from Cape Leveque to Dampier, including Port Hedland, Karratha, Dampier and Broome, as well as inland parts of the eastern Pilbara and far western Kimberley. A Cyclone Watch is current for the central and eastern inland Pilbara including Telfer, Newman and Paraburdoo, the western inland Kimberley, the eastern Gascoyne including Meekatharra, and the far western Interior.

Yellow and Blue Alerts are also in effect. A Yellow Alert is in effect for residents between Broome and Whim Creek including Bidyadanga, Port Hedland, South Hedland, Warralong, Yande Yarra, Marble Bar and adjacent pastoral and mining leases. A Blue Alert is in effect for residents in coastal communities between Whim Creek and Dampier including Karratha, Dampier, Roebourne, Wickham and Point Samson as well as inland communities including Nullagine, Newman and Jigalong and surrounding pastoral and mining leases.

ABC Online Melboure reports that flights have been canceled and roads have been closed. Officials have also closed Karijini National Park because of flash flooding risk.

On March 16, 2012 at 0900 UTC (5 a.m. EST), Tropical cyclone Lua's maximum sustained winds were near 75 knots (86 mph/139 kph). Cyclone-force winds extended out 30 nautical miles (34.5 miles/55.5 km) from the center, while tropical storm-force winds extended out to 160 nautical miles (184 miles/296.3 km) from the center.

Lua was located near 16.5 South and 116.6 East, about 260 miles north-northwest of Port Hedland, Australia. Lua was moving to the east-southeast at 10 knots (11.5 mph/18.5 kph).

Lua is forecast to strengthen to 90 knots (103.6 mph/166.7 kph) before making landfall around midday (local time) on March 17 just north of Port Hedland. By March 19, Lua is expected to dissipate in central or southern Western Australia. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology is issuing updates every three hours. To see the updates, visit: http://www.bom.gov.au/cyclone/.

Text Credit: Rob Gutro

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hurricanes/archives/2012/h2012_Lua.html

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Lua has made landfall with sustained winds of 95kts. The system made landfall near Wallal, though the destructive winds and moreso the torrential rains are being felt in a wider area encompassing communities from Broome to Karratha. For anyone riding this out it is going to be a bumpy ride. Wind damage and flooding will probably be widespread.

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It was the most intense cyclone to cross the Australian coast since Yasi but the damage to property was apparently minimal, largely due to the fact hardly anyone lives up there.

A roadhouse, some farmsheds, some tanks and some windmills were the only prominent casualties.

The area is composed of a lot of cattle ranches though, but even the cattle were spared. This is quite amazing to me I wonder whether there are purposelly built cyclone proof shelters for cattle?

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