More than 110,000 homes and businesses are without power today after a storm delivering destructive 140km/h winds ripped through Perth and the South-West yesterday. The savage storm caused widespread destruction to the Western Power network across the South West as wind gusts reaching 140km/h – the same as a category two cyclone – lashed Perth and the South-West. Western Power spokeswoman Miriam Borthwick said there was more damage — with hundreds of power poles and powerlines torn down — than in any previous storm.
It is likely to take days to restore power to some customers, with hundreds of Western Power crews working around the clock to repair damaged infrastructure. The damage bill run into the millions. Some homes may not have power restored for up to a week. Western Power crews restored power to about 50,000 customers over night.
Mandurah, Meadow Springs and Pinjarra still have 21,000 customers without power. Ms Borthwick said the storm had damaged WA’s electricity network from Geraldton to Ravensthorpe and across the South West. “In the bottom half of Western Australia the network has been extensively damaged,” she told ABC radio. “There are hundreds of powerlines down, power poles down.” This morning in the metropolitan area there were still 30 sets of traffic lights out of action.
Dozens of Western Power crews worked through the night to restore power to 45,000 customers, after hundreds of power lines and streetlight wires were brought down by flying debris. Mandurah, Rockingham and Bunbury were the worst hit areas. The State Emergency Service was inundated with more than 500 calls for yesterday, reporting major structural damage, fallen trees, debris on roadways, and damage to utilities and railway infrastructure.
Bunbury Regional Hospital is continuing to operate after windows were smashed in the paediatric wing. SES spokesman Allen Gale told 6PR more than 150 volunteers worked through the night to answer calls for help. “We’re waiting for daylight to get out and get the assessments completed,” he said.
“SES has got to try and get to still 400 places where there’s been requests for assistance. We do expect the calls to continue today and of course increase again this afternoon as this next storm front comes up. “Our biggest concern I guess is getting as much done as we can today and tomorrow before this next system arrives tomorrow afternoon.” Mr Gale advised motorists heading to work this morning to drive carefully, slow down, and allow extra time.
Several people were trapped in a block of units in Tuart Hill yesterday 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. At 6.30pm yesterday, a spokeswoman said Western Power had restored power to about 20,000 customers affected by the 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 were brought down in the storms in the metropolitan area and South-West. Many areas were 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 crisis 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 were 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 have worked through the night to help people affected by the storm. The SES answered more than 300 calls for help yesterday. 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, a FESA spokeswoman said.
The Lower South-West and South-West received more than 50 calls for assistance from Busselton, Bunbury, Harvey and Capel, including 16 high priority requests. There was 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 Meteorology spokesman said the strongest wind gust recorded yesterday 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.
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.
Nortshore SES Volunteers repairing roof damage