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.