Massive storm sparks food shortage fears
Customers have stripped many of the shelves at Woolworths and Coles stores bare as shoppers stock up in the face of a huge weather event.
Footage from Coles and Woolies in Karratha, in north west Western Australia, has shown practically nothing left in the fresh vegetables, dairy and meat areas.
The images, aired by Channel 9, also show an aisle that would normally carry hundreds of bottles of water now have none.
The rush is happening in the face of a fierce cyclone set to make landfall on Saturday evening.
Coles has said the sheer speed of the storm has delayed planned deliveries - meaning more shortages are on the cards.
A tropical low off the Kimberley has developed to become Tropical Cyclone Damien, the state's third tropical cyclone for the year.
A yellow alert for Port Hedland is in place warning people to take precautions as the storm nears
Damien is due to make landfall in Western Australia's Pilbara region over the weekend, with heavy rainfall and flooding expected.
By the time Damien hits land it could be as strong as a Category 4 storm.
Destructive winds with gusts up to 150km/h may develop on Friday night. But Category 4 storms can have gusts in excess of 225km/h.
Its track has it currently on course to breach the coast between Karratha and Wickham on Saturday evening.
Residents of Port Hedland, 200kms north of Wickham, told news.com.au they too are hunkering down ahead of the storm.
Shelves of their local supermarkets were also empty as of yesterday afternoon and the town was busy preparing its evacuation centre as Damien neared.
Coles' Western Australia State Manager Pat Zanetti told news.com.au that four truckloads of stock including fresh produce, meat, milk and grocery items had reached Pilbara towns on Friday.
However the cyclone had arrived earlier than expected which meant other deliveries had been delayed, he said.
"This means there will be some stock shortages at our stores in the Pilbara. However we are working with authorities managing road access to improve product availability as quickly as possible.
"Coles brought forward deliveries for stores in the area forecast to be affected by Cyclone Damien to increase stocks of essentials to help our customers prepare.
"We also ensured the stores have extra non-perishable items such as extra water, UHT milk, baked beans, spaghetti and other essentials."
While Broome is some distance from the cyclone, deliveries to its supermarkets usually come up from Perth via Karratha so are likely to also be affected.
A Woolworths spokeswoman said the firm had ordered "plenty of additional stock" including key essentials like water, long life milk, baby formula, tinned food and nappies
"Deliveries overnight have replenished the store and we expect our usual truck deliveries today," she said.
Woolies said deliveries were currently on schedule but the company was monitoring the weather situation and liaising closely with local authorities.
Abnormally high tides could also cause serious flooding at the coast between Dampier and Wallal.
Rainfall totals may exceed 300mm close to the cyclone path, the bureau says.
Residents of towns in the Pilbara between Port Hedland and Mardie, including Karratha and Dampier, are being encouraged to organise emergency supplies such as a first aid kit, torch, portable radio, spare batteries, food and water. Both Port Hedland and Karratha are home to significant mining and oil and gas operations.
Tropical Cyclone Veronica, also rated category four, caused extensive damage and disruption to mining operations in Port Hedland last year.