Tropical Cyclone Seroja has slammed into the coast of Western Australia and torn through townships in the night, leaving a trail of damage and power outages.
Seroja made landfall south of Kalbarri at about 8pm AWST on Sunday as a category three storm, bringing wind gusts of up to 170km/h at the centre as it reached land.
The fast-moving storm weakened to a category two system as it pushed inland towards Dalwallinu in a south-east direction at more than 60km/h.
Reports of property damage and power outages in Kalbarri and Geraldton started surfacing as the storm’s force was felt and residents took shelter by candlelight.
Fallen trees, damaged homes and wrecked fences could be spotted amid the howling wind and rain in those towns, footage on social media showed.
The damage will be fully visible at daylight and could be extensive, with the Bureau of Meteorology expecting the impact to extend inland through to Wheatbelt communities overnight.
Western Power said more than 4,300 homes had already lost power at 8pm AWST and crews had to wait for conditions to improve before they could restore it.
“Once the red alert is lifted and it’s safe, our crews will start assessing damage and responding to hazards,” said Western Power’s asset operations manager, Zane Christmas.
He said power crews had been preparing for Seroja since Friday but the damage caused by cyclones could make access to roads, properties and power infrastructure difficult, delaying repairs.
“Our top priority will be to make hazards safe, then commence restoration work as quickly as possible,” Christmas said.
Residents across WA’s mid west had been told to take shelter during what the premier, Mark McGowan, described as a cyclone “like nothing we have seen before in decades”.
A red alert remained in place in the early hours of Monday for coastal areas from Carnarvon to Lancelin, extending to inland areas and towns including Coorow, Carnamah, Dalwallinu, Denham, Jurien Bay, Lancelin, Moora, Paynes Find and Wongan Hills.
Communities included in the zone were Geraldton, the shires of Carnamah, Coorow, Chapman Valley, Irwin, Mingenew, Morawa, Northampton, Perenjori, Shark Bay and Three Springs.
Destructive winds, high tides, heavy rainfall, flash flooding, dangerous surf and beach erosion were among the dangers.
Wind gusts of up to 130km/h and sustained wind speeds of nearly 100km/h were still being recorded in the storm’s centre hours after landfall, the Bureau of Meteorology said.
The cyclone will weaken as it travels further inland on Monday but it is still likely to bring damaging winds and heavy rain as it moves through the eastern Wheatbelt, southern Goldfields and south-east coastal districts.
Carnarvon’s historic One Mile Jetty was one of the first casualties of the cyclone, reportedly ripped apart around lunchtime on Sunday.
Evacuation centres are open in Port Denison, Carnarvon and Denham.
The WA Country Health Service said Geraldton hospital would continue to treat emergency patients during the cyclone, but all other appointments were cancelled.