HEAVY rains and wind gusts reaching 140km/h – the same as a category two cyclone – have lashed Perth and the south-west causing widespread damage to homes and buildings. Several people were trapped in a block of units in Tuart Hill this afternoon after the roof was ripped off their unit complex. Western Power has diverted all crews to emergency work following extensive damage to the electricity network this afternoon. At 6.30pm, a spokeswoman said Western Power has restored power to about 20,000 customers affected by this afternoon’s outages, but more than 140,000 homes were still without electricity and many were likely to stay off throughout the night.
More than 170 powerlines and more than 230 streetlight wires have been brought down in the storms in the metropolitan area and south west. Many areas will be without streetlighting overnight. “The storm is still impacting the network, particularly in the south-west of the state,” she said. At the height of the impact more than 160,000 were without electricity and more than 700 faults recorded.
Among other serious damage, a crane collapsed on to the QEII Medical Centre in Nedlands, trees fell onto cars in Applecross and Winthrop, Riverside Drive in the city was flooded because of the swelling river and shipping containers were blown off their stacks in Fremantle Port. Ferry services to and from Rottnest Island were also affected by the rough weather, and flights were delayed at Perth Airport, although none cancelled. Main Roads says there are about 60 sets of traffic signals blacked out across the Perth area due to various power outages.
More than 150 State Emergency Service (SES) volunteers from 18 units will continue to work into the night to help people affected by the storm. The SES answered more than 300 calls for help today. Mandurah and Rockingham were the worst hit by the storm. Calls have involved reports of major structural damage, minor damage to homes and roofs as well as fallen trees on homes, cars and fences. The Lower South West and South West have received more than 50 calls for assistance from Busselton, Bunbury, Harvey and Capel, including 16 high priority requests. There has been widespread damage to utilities, railway infastructure damage to boomgates and debris on roadways.
Bunbury Regional Hospital sustained damage to windows in the paediatric wing, however the hospital is continuing to operate normally. A Bureau of Metrology spokesman said the strongest wind gust recorded today was 139km/h at Cape Naturalise about 2pm. The spokesman said the bureau had not recorded any tornadoes. “We’ve had some very destructive wind gusts just as powerful as the tornado this week (in Dianella),” the spokesman said. We are expecting some significant damage to homes without a tornado, just because of the storm itself.”
Several people working in laboratories at the QEII Medical Centre were evacuated following the crane collapse, but a hospital spokeswoman said no patients or hospital staff had been evacuated.
In the south-west, the worst wind conditions were experienced on the coast between Bunbury and Augusta. By late afternoon conditions eased. Through the evening winds are expected to ease throughout the warning area. Yallingup resident Tegan Arnold said the south-west had been hit hard by the storm with strong winds causing many trees to fall, including some on to cars. Steve from the tourist destination the Yallingup Shearing Shed said it was the worst devastation he had ever seen on his farm in 50 years. He said he could hear the winds coming up the valley and then the strong winds hit with trees falling all around his business and on a car in the carpark.
Western Power is urging people to stay away from any fallen power lines or poles and to treat any broken power lines as if they were live. A spokeswoman said the state’s electricity network had suffered widespread damage because of the strong wind gusts affecting most of the southern part of the state. “Western Power crews are attending to public safety hazards – but with so many damaged areas Western Power is urging people to stay away from any fallen power lines and to treat all lines as if they were live,” the spokeswoman said.
“The Waikiki sub-station has lost power which is affecting more than 9000 customers in that area and there are more than 30 faults on the network each affecting close to 5000 customers.” Areas of major impact include Waikiki, Mandurah, Boddington, Margaret River, Bunbury and Busselton where there are widespread power outages.
A Rottnest Island Authority spokeswoman said conditions had improved on the island this afternoon and a ferry would be leaving Rottnest for Fremantle at 4.30pm taking all remaining visitors on the island back to the mainland. She said the island itself had sustained some damage from the wild storm, including some vegetation damage, although the full extent of the damage is not yet known. She said no injuries had been reported.
More bad weather
At 5.45pm, the Bureau of Meteorology said a severe weather warning was current for people south of a line from Walpole to Lake Grace to Salmon Gums to Israelite Bay. This included people in, near or between Albany and Esperance. The warning for people north and west of this area, including the coastal strip from Perth to Bunbury and Augusta, has been cancelled. The deep low that passed over the south west corner of the state is weakening. People on the coastal strip from Perth to Bunbury and down to Augusta are advised that the threat of severe weather has now passed.
Winds expected along the south coast will not be as severe as have been experienced along the west coast during this afternoon, however there is a possibility of damaging winds to 100 kilometres per hour that could cause damage to property. Western Power is asking people to only call its fault line – 131351 – if they are reporting a hazard. There is no need to report a power interruption this evening.
For SES assistance call 132 500.