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Storms hit Western Australia southwest as cyclone nears

January 29, 2011

Saturday afternoon’s storms caused damage in parts of Perth and regional towns to the east, including Toodyay, Northam, York and Wongan Hills.

State Emergency Service volunteers have responded to 20 calls for assistance in Perth for rain damage, localised flooding and roof collapses, the Fire and Emergency Services Authority (FESA) said.

In Northam and York, east of Perth, around 30 buildings were badly damaged, many with roofs torn off, and powerlines and other structures were also hammered, it said.

Between Northampton and Jurien Bay, north of Perth, there had been 18 calls for assistance for damaged roofs.

The stormy weather cut power to around 55,000 homes in WA’s south on Saturday as the category three cyclone Bianca approached across the Indian Ocean.

Western Power said the first power outages occurred on Saturday morning at Geraldton in the state’s midwest when 100km/h winds brought down poles and lines near the airport.

It said it expected power to most homes in Geraldton would be restored by Saturday evening but longer outages would occur in surrounding towns.

Western Power said around 28,000 customers in Perth had their power cut after lightning and strong winds battered the network.

It said lightning caused a fire and cut power at the Yokine substation, affecting 22,000 customers in surrounding suburbs.

Another 22,000 customers had their electricity cut in Northam, Toodyay and other centres to the east of Perth, Western Power said.

The Bureau of Meteorology says Bianca is weakening as it approaches the coast and may not be as threatening as first thought.

But a cyclone warning remained in place for communities between Jurien Bay north of Perth and Albany on the south coast as Bianca tracks over the Indian Ocean to make an expected landfall early on Sunday.

By then the category three system is expected to have weakened to category one.

If Bianca continues to move and weaken rapidly as expected, it is unlikely to produce dangerous weather on Sunday for the southwest, the bureau said in an advisory on Saturday.

But it said there was still a risk that if Bianca accelerated towards the coast on Sunday, there could be more damaging winds with gusts to 100km/h southwest of a line from Jurien Bay to Albany.

It could also increase the risk of bushfires, cause coastal erosion and flooding of low lying coastal areas, create rough seas and dangerous surf and bring damaging winds, heavy rainfall and localised flash flooding, the bureau said.

Extensive flooding is not expected.

At 2pm (WST) Bianca was about 810km west northwest of Perth and 630km west northwest of Geraldton and moving southwest at 25km/h towards the coast.

FESA is warning residents in WA’s southwest corner to stay informed about the cyclones progress and to prepare their homes and families for dangerous weather.

It has also advised people not to go boating, fishing, swimming or surfing in storm-affected areas.

WA’s Department of Environment and Conservation has closed recreation and camping sites in regional and national parks and state forests between Jurien Bay and Bremer Bay.

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