Play it smart, be storm safe Don’t blow it off
ANYONE blase about just how potentially damaging a storm can be need to only cast their mind back to March 22, 2010.
That day a powerful storm cell carved a path of destruction through Perth suburbs.
Hailstones up to six centimetres in diameter pummelled people, homes, cars, schools, hospitals and universities. Strong wind gusts peeled roofs off houses like they were tin cans.
With a damage bill estimated at more than $1 billion, it is still the costliest natural disaster in WA’s history.
Right in the thick of the aftermath of this destructive storm were the volunteer crews of the State Emergency Service (SES), which over the course of eight days responded to hundreds of calls for assistance from the public.
They were assisted by other emergency services volunteers and career firefighters, with it being a real team effort to help the community get back on their feet.
SES veteran Jim Maclean, who was sector commander for the SES’s North Shore District that day, said the ferocity of the storm and the size of the hailstones caught many residents unaware, but water damage in many homes could have been avoided if people had taken action, such as cleaning out their gutters.
While that great hail storm of 2010 struck in the warmer months, traditionally it is winter when Perth and WA’s southwest face the most severe storm risk. These storms can trigger flash flooding, damaging hail, wild winds – even the occasional tornado.
During the 2018 storm season (May to October) the SES attended 136 incidents, responding to 1149 requests for assistance. You can’t do anything to prevent these storms rolling in, but you can do plenty to minimise property damage and the risk of injury to you and your loved ones.
Clear those gutters, tidy up any loose objects around the yard or your balcony that could be turned into projectiles when the wind gets up (gusts during a strong storm front can reach 100km/h), and trim trees.
You should also make sure your pets are safely inside or under shelter.
Once a storm has passed and you’ve assessed any damage around the home, be aware there could still be potential hazards such as fallen live power lines, broken glass or other debris and possible flash flooding.
It’s also a good idea to check on the welfare of neighbours, particularly the elderly, in the aftermath of a severe storm.
If the damage is more than you can safely fix, call the SES for emergency assistance on 132 500. And lastly, don’t be complacent. To keep up to date with storm warnings, visit emergency.wa.gov.au.