Cyclone Yvette is expected to make landfall in Australia's northwest over the Christmas weekend.
Meteorologists have issued a severe weather warning, predicting wind gusts of 160km/h (100mph), heavy rain and possible flash flooding.
The cyclone has been preceded by a dust storm in the region, a major mining centre.
Refrigeration mechanic Dan Carey said clouds the colour of "iron ore" rolled over his town of Port Hedland.
"It feels like the calm before the storm at the moment," he told the BBC.
"I've tidied up and got everything under cover."
Yvette is forecast to become a category two cyclone by the time it makes landfall.
Neil Bennett, from Australia's Bureau of Meteorology, said it would be a "powerful system".
"This particular stretch of the coastline is one of the most cyclone-prone areas in the world," he said.
Cyclone Stan, the only tropical cyclone to reach mainland Australia this year, slammed into the same region in January.
The category two system forced the closure of the export hub at Port Hedland for almost 48 hours.
Mining companies BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals Group evacuated most of their port workers before the storm.