Weather News

Kununurra counts 'catastrophic' cost after freak storm slams WA town's airport

By Rebecca Nadge, Thursday October 1, 2020 - 23:56 EST
ABC image
Wind gusts of up to 118km per hour were recorded at the Kununurra Airport. - ABC

Kununurra aviation operators are assessing the damage after an intense storm flipped planes and damaged buildings in the West Australian town on Wednesday afternoon.



The Bureau of Meteorology issued a severe weather warning after wind gusts of up to 118km/h were recorded at the Kununurra airport.

The temperature dropped by 20 degrees in less than an hour and nearly 50 millimetres of rain was recorded.

Power has been restored to 366 homes that were blacked out.

It marks another blow for the East Kimberley town, which has been struggling economically after a non-existent tourist season.

No fly zone

The East Kimberley Regional Airport bore the brunt of the damage.

Shoal Air owner Steve Irvine said six of his aircraft were damaged as the chains shackling them were stretched to the limit, and a hangar door collapsed in the wind.

He said he had not experienced a storm so ferocious in his 40 years in the Kimberley.

"The intense wind was just mind-blowing — I've never seen anything like it," Mr Irvine said.

"It's just added to the difficulties and the cost for the year.

"It's pretty catastrophic."



He had started carrying out inspections and repairs and said an insurance assessor would fly up on Friday.

Wyndham-East Kimberley Shire President David Menzel said the storm was another blow for aviation operators, who were from the impact of the pandemic.

"It's the last thing those businesses out there need," he said.

"Hopefully their insurance is up to date, but even so it's the psychological damage of having to deal yet another blow to their business."



'Nearly got blown away'

A witness at the Ivanhoe Village caravan park said the storm came in fast.

"I went to try and go out and see what was going on and I nearly got blown away, and then my awning started going," the woman said.

"I just raced out and stood out in the rain trying to hold that with my poor kids inside freaking out, thinking something was gong to happen to me."



She said everyone staying in the park pitched in to help one another during the event.

No-one was injured, but trees fell around the park and some motorhomes were damaged.

"We've got a huge clean-up process going on this morning," she said.

"Some of the trees are huge — it's going to take days.

"The poor backpackers that were out in tents and swags and rooftop tents, people have taken them into cabins to look after them and make sure everyone is safe and dry."



Disaster assistance considered

Housing minister Peter Tinley arrived in Kununurra on Wednesday in the aftermath of the storm.

He said disaster assistance funding may be available.



"The Shire is in conversation with the State," Mr Tinley said.

"There are very clear pathways here for getting disaster relief.

"I'll be taking back with me what I saw when we landed yesterday, of planes being upturned and trees being uprooted and telecommunications being knocked out."


- ABC

© ABC 2020

More breaking news

Sydney Morning Herald
ABC News
9News
News Limited

Display Your Local Weather

Weather News

Intense rain and large hail impacts Brisbane and inland areas as storms moves across South-East Queensland

19:46 EDT

Swiftwater rescue crews have been deployed to parts of Brisbane this afternoon, with flash flooding from heavy rainfall causing havoc across the city.

Severe storms hitting southeast QLD

15:15 EDT

Numerous severe thunderstorms have developed over southeast Queensland this afternoon.