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RAC notes spike in insurance claims as WA homeowners rebuild after autumn storms

By Roxanne Taylor, Wednesday July 15, 2020 - 07:48 EST
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Some people lost multiple fences in May storms and are still waiting for repairs two months later. - ABC

If you walked around your neighbourhood recently, there is a good chance you would have noticed plenty of missing fences and lots of tradies busy at work.



Western Australia in autumn, wreaking havoc on usually quiet neighbourhoods spanning from Geraldton to Esperance, including Perth.

Some homeowners lost multiple fences over the series of storms, or lost newly repaired fences within a few weeks — and many are still waiting for repairs months later.



Insurance provider RAC said there was a huge spike in insurance claims with 12,138 storm-related claims made to RAC insurance in May, including 7,503 for damaged fences.

That compared to just 280 claims in May last year, including 19 fences.

Claims in the first winter month of June were slightly less than last year, with 2,210 claims this year, down from 2,944 last June.

Huge demand for building supplies

"In the storm in early May we lost our side fence and then the next storm we lost half of our back fence so we're one and a half sides down at the moment," Dalyellup resident Debbie Woods said.

"Our neighbours lost all three sides of their fence and our back neighbours lost some as well."

Bunbury tradesman, Deon Attard, said the huge demand for fencing materials after the cluster of storms had caused a shortage of supplies.

"Usually you can get materials within a few days but after these storms there was initially an almost three-week wait for it," he said.

"More common colours had a longer wait time than others.

"The wait time now has reduced to about a week."

Ms Woods said she had been waiting two months for her fence to be replaced.

"According to the contractor, he's just waiting for the Colorbond to arrive so he can build it, he just can't get the materials at the moment," she said.

A number of local fence suppliers said there was not technically a shortage, but a large demand at one time pushing out wait times for products.

The manufacturer of Colorbond, Bluescope Steel, was contacted for comment.



'Unusual' weather event

Meteorologist Jessica Lingard, from the Bureau of Meteorology, said the storms came in quickly and were unusual.

"While we are usually eased into the season with a few lighter fronts to start with, this year we had a string of severe fronts right off the bat," she said.

Ms Lingard said storm damage at the start of the cold front season was usually worse because tree limbs dried out in summer, making them easier to fall, and the ground dried out making fences unstable.

"Usually by the middle of the season, any damage that could be done, has been done, so reports diminish, despite the severity of the fronts remaining the same," Ms Lingard said.



In the first big storm on May 4 and 5, a deep low pressure and an associated cold front brought widespread damaging winds over 90 kilometres per hour and locally dangerous gusts over 125kms per hour.

Dardanup, Katanning and the south west capes all experienced wind gusts over 100kms per hour.

Ms Lingard said another severe storm on May 24 and 25 was "particularly unusual" as ex-Tropical Cyclone Mangga interacted with a cold front creating wind gusts of more than 130kms per hour, along with dust storms and high rainfall throughout western parts of WA.

"Statistics from Geraldton are probably slightly unusual as we don't usually see winter systems impacting that far north so early on in the cool season," she said.

"That was as a result of the influence of the tropical system to the north combining with the cold front to the south."


- ABC

© ABC 2020

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