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Cyclone Rusty weakens, threat moves inland


While Tropical Cyclone Rusty continues to weaken, communities inland from WA's east Pilbara region are now in its firing line as the storm continues creeping south.

The storm has been downgraded to a category two, but destructive wind gusts up to 125km/h are expected in the area on Thursday, the Bureau of Meteorology said.

Residents between Pardoo and Nullagine are being urged to stay sheltered, with a red alert in place.

Widespread very heavy rainfall is likely to cause major flooding in the De Grey catchment, with flooding possible in the Upper Fortescue catchment and in remaining east Pilbara coastal streams.

The bureau expects Rusty to weaken below cyclone intensity on Thursday night.

Those in Port Hedland and South Hedland have been given the all clear to return home, with the bureau declaring the danger there had passed.

Port Hedland had been expected to bear the brunt of the cyclone, but the storm took a last-minute turn before it reached land late on Wednesday.

At 2am (WST) Thursday, the storm was around 75 kilometres north-northeast of Marble Bar and 160 kilometres east-southeast of Port Hedland, the bureau said.

It was moving south-southeast at 10 kilometres per hour.

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services warned those in towns on red alert to brace themselves.

"It is important that residents understand that dangerous conditions have commenced for inland communities and are continuing across the region," the department said in a statement.