In March 1999, TC Vance swept through Exmouth, with the eyewall of the cyclone passing directly over the township generating gusts to 267 km/h. Around 10% of residential houses showed structural failure, with some types of housing experiencing significantly greater damage. By revisiting the impacts of TC Vance, we hope to guide thinking of emergency managers and local government on planning for when another category 5 TC strikes Exmouth.
Using the best track information provided by the Bureau of Meteorology, we simulate the wind field of TC Vance using Geoscience Australia’s Tropical Cyclone Risk Model (TCRM), incorporating the local effects of topography, terrain and shielding afforded by neighbouring structures. This simulation is validated against observations of peak wind speed recorded at Learmonth Airport and other regional weather stations.
The impacts of TC Vance are calculated for the present building stock in Exmouth, which has grown by nearly a third since 1999. Modern residential buildings perform very well, in line with the performance levels established by the wind loading standards for the region. Some groups of older buildings – specifically the U.S. Navy block houses that survived TC Vance unscathed – also perform very well.
The analysis shows the town of Exmouth would still suffer substantial impacts, with around 700 buildings likely to suffer moderate to complete damage. This translates to around 1400 people, with at least half of those requiring temporary accommodation in the days and weeks immediately after the cyclone.
These types of analysis help to reduce uncertainty and enhances decision-making for emergency services, enabling a more proportional response for rescue, damage assessments and initial recovery at the State, regional and local levels. From a strategic perspective it can also be used to identify and verify current and future capability needs for agencies involved in managing the cyclone hazard.