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Aaron Bunch

Northwest battens down as Cyclone Ilsa gathers strength

The commissioner says people need to ensure they are well prepared for winds in excess of 200km/h. (Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS) (AAP)

Evacuations are under way in Western Australia's northwest as tourists, miners and pastoralists flee the projected path of a strengthening cyclone.

Tropical Cyclone Ilsa is currently a category one system off the Kimberley coast, about 400 kilometres northwest of Broome.

Ilsa is forecast to track south over the next two days and become a potentially destructive category four system before crossing the coast northeast of Port Hedland early on Friday.

Department of Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm said remote Aboriginal communities, pastoral stations, mines and tourism operators in its path had been contacted.

Workers at Wallal Downs cattle station, Newcrest's Telfer mine and caravan parks are being evacuated, along with non-critical workers at BHP's sites across the region.

People living in structures that are not built to withstand a category four weather event have been told to move out of the area.

"It's been 10 years since we've had a category four cyclone impact the coast of WA and so many people up in the Pilbara and the Kimberley wouldn't have experienced that sort of impact," he told reporters.

Extra emergency workers, essential supplies and aircraft have also been sent to the region.

Mr Klemm said the North West Coastal Highway between Port Hedland and Broome would likely close in the coming days due to flooding.

The Port Hedland port will be cleared of vessels, including iron ore carriers, on Wednesday.

"People need to make sure they're well prepared for winds in excess of 200km/h, which is going to be significant," Mr Klemm said.

Bureau of Meteorology spokesman Todd Smith said the cyclone would rapidly grow in strength over the coming days and its impacts would be felt across a wide area between Broome and Port Hedland.

"It's going to cause a lot of damage to trees, vegetation and any buildings and infrastructure that aren't up to code, and caravans, cars are going to get blown around," he said.

Mr Smith warned abnormally high tides, large waves and flooding are possible and people should avoid coastal and low-lying areas.

He also said the weather system could reach hundreds of kilometres inland and towns in the Pilbara region also need to prepare.

Communities from Beagle Bay to Whim Creek, including Broome and Port Hedland, have been warned to prepare for damaging winds, heavy rainfall and abnormally high tides.

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