Cyclone Uesi was approaching Lord Howe Island off the New South Wales coast on Thursday, bringing with it destructive winds, heavy rain and powerful surf.
The Bureau of Meteorology said the category 2 cyclone was moving towards the island at 27km/h, with sustained winds near the centre of 95km/h and gusts of 130km/h.
“Although the system will lose its tropical characteristics during today it is still expected to maintain an intensity equivalent to a category 2 tropical cyclone as it approaches Lord Howe Island tonight and into early Friday morning,” the BoM said in an update on Thursday morning.
“There is a likelihood of vigorous and gusty winds, heavy rain and large waves as the system moves close to the island.”
Seas of two to three metres, increasing to five to seven metres are expected.
Island chief executive Peter Adams said residents and visitors were preparing for the storm to reach the island in the early hours of Friday morning.
“People are calmly preparing,” he told the ABC TV on Thursday.
“Based on experience, people in their homes know what to do.”
“The island is 600km off the shore, it’s certainly subject to storms and people on the island are accustomed for preparing for those things. For a start, their homes are ready for windy conditions.”
The world-heritage listed island is home to about 400 residents and another 400 tourists at any time.
Adams said that there were plenty of provisions on the island and arrangements were being made to accommodate guests who might have to stay if flights were cancelled.
Qantas is the only airline that serves the island, using Dash 8 aircraft that have to fly with a limited number of passengers and strictly rationed luggage to take off and land on the 886 metre-long runway. Flights on Thursday were on schedule but the airline has said it will reassess the situation on Friday.
“If it’s strong winds, it can mean it’s not safe to land. Again, that’s something the islanders are accustomed to. It adjusts around cancelled flights, it can happen fairly regularly,” Adams said.
In March 1995, tropical cyclone Violet hit Lord Howe Island with gusts reaching 125km/h causing tree damage across the island. In 1948, a severe tropical cyclone produced a record 177km/h gust at Lord Howe Island.