Australia's northwest prepares to be hit by Cyclone Rusty, which is expected to make landfall in the next 24 hours.
PORT HEDLAND, AUSTRALIA (FEBRUARY 26, 2013)(AUSTRALIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION) - Residents of Western Australia's northern-coast on Tuesday (February 26) prepared to be hit by a powerful tropical cyclone in the next 24 hours.
The town, known locally as 'cyclone alley', began evacuating residents on Tuesday ahead of forecast 280 kph (175 mph) winds and torrential rains.
Cyclone Rusty could strengthen to a category four storm - on a scale of one-to five - by the time it reaches the port, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology tracking system showed.
"Damaging to destructive winds are going to continue for up to 24 hours. Already we have red alerts issued for Port Hedland and communities such as Port Hedland are likely to be in those conditions for up to 36 hours and maybe even longer. It's going to be a long, protracted and quite dangerous experience," said Mike Bergin, the bureau's regional director.
Local shops reported people were stocking up all essentials, including bread, milk, water and even alcohol, local media said.
Cyclone Rusty has already closed Port Hedland, which handles a fifth of the world's seaborne-traded iron ore, halting the loading of millions of tonnes of iron ore, and shut offshore oil and gas fields.
The Department of Fire and Emergency Services has warned residents in low lying areas of Port Hedland to evacuate.
It is six years since the last big cyclone hit the area in 2007.
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