Play it smart, be storm safe Don’t blow it off

Cockburn Gazette - - NEWS - With DFES Com­mis­sioner Dar­ren Klemm

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.

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