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Perth storm: Severe cold front hits WA's South West, bringing heavy rain, winds and flooding

By Graeme Powell and Irena Ceranic, Friday May 25, 2018 - 19:21 EST
ABC licensed image
Lightning strikes seen off the Dawesville coast during the storm. - ABC licensed

The full force of Mother Nature is being felt in Western Australia as emergency services deal with damaging wind gusts from a severe cold front that has also dumped heavy rain in Perth and the south-west of the state.

A severe weather warning remains in place for people across the South West region, including Perth, as well as parts of the Great Southern and central Wheatbelt, with a second storm front set to cross the coast this evening.



The front crossed the coast late Thursday afternoon and has seen wind gusts of 113 kilometres per hour in the farming town of Gnowangerup and at Cape Naturaliste on the coast.

More than 75 millimetres of rain has been dumped on Vasse and more than 69mm at nearby Busselton, with locals reporting the closure of some streets due to flooding.

Perth officially recorded 29.2mm of rain to 9am today, with Swanbourne receiving 41.4mm and Rottnest Island receiving 43mm.

Couple injured by falling branch

A couple, both aged 70, were taken to hospital after their car was struck by a falling tree in Churchlands.

The eucalyptus tree fell on to the bonnet of their car as they drove along Pearson Street on Friday morning.

Emergency crews helped free the couple, who were taken to Royal Perth Hospital where they will spend the night.

Their injuries are not thought to be life-threatening.

Emergency services and council rangers have spent the day clearing uprooted trees and fallen branches.



Port Beach in Fremantle has been closed after high tides caused further erosion to the area.

Damaging gusts not over

The Bureau of Meteorology is warning the heavy rain and damaging winds are set to continue tonight.

Duty forecaster Neil Bennett said conditions should ease after midnight.



"There is a period of weather now from this evening right through to midnight when we are expecting to see the winds continue to blow quite strongly — there is the potential for gusts up around the 90kph mark again for the South West," Mr Bennett said.

"Rainfall will still be quite heavy but not as heavy as last night, although there will still be the potential for some falls of 20-30mm.

"Once we get through the midnight period there will be an easing trend for the west coast, but along the south coast conditions are going to become and stay rather windy.

"Also there'll be a lot of showers and there could be some thunderstorms across the south coast as well."

The bureau is warning of a slight chance of dangerous gusts of more than 125 kilometres an hour in coastal areas from Bunbury to Walpole that could cause destruction to homes and property on Friday afternoon and evening.

High tides could also flood low lying areas as far as Albany and Hopetoun, and damaging surf conditions are also likely.



"The passage of the low is expected to produce conditions windier than a typical cold front and is likely to produce the kind of weather that is only seen around twice a year over the SW corner of WA," the bureau said in its warning.

The State Emergency Service has received more than 60 calls for help.

A spokeswoman said the calls came in late yesterday from Perth and Busselton, but the damage to homes and property overnight had extended to dozens of towns across the Wheatbelt and the south-west of the state.



Widespread blackouts

Western Power said its crews worked through the night and staff were continuing to respond to a large number of reported hazards created by the powerful storm.

"The storm's winds … have brought down trees and blown debris into powerlines, creating hazards including fallen powerlines and damaged insulators across the network," a spokesman said.

He said Western Power's focus was on making those hazards safe and restoring power to customers.



At the peak of the storm about 11,000 customers were without power, but that number has since been reduced to about 3,000.

However, with the second front due to cross the coast, the utility has warned it "cannot guarantee reconnection for many more customers tonight".

"We would like to advise that if you are still without power by 8pm then you should prepare to be without power overnight," Western Power said in a statement.

More crews and resources have been allocated tonight and over the weekend to deal with storm-related hazards.

"We ask for your patience during this process as community safety is our priority before we begin any attempts to repair and restore power to customers," it said.

Western Power said it had also been asked by fire authorities to "de-energise" parts of the network around Albany area

The utility is also urging customers to keep away from fallen power lines, to call Western Power on 13 13 51 to report damage and keep at least eight metres away from any such hazard.


- ABC

© ABC 2018

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