Seroja leaves mid-west blown away

Wind gusts as strong as 170km/hour destroyed homes, buildings and structures in Mid West WA. Photo: Zak Hasleby.

The future viability of structures in coastal communities north of Perth is in the spotlight after the devastation caused by Cyclone Seroja of Kalbarri and Northampton at the weekend.

The category three cyclone was originally predicted to hit the Kimberley region, before it interacted with ex-tropical cyclone Odette north of the country, changing course to make landfall between Port Gregory and Kalbarri around 8pm on Sunday, April 11.

Damage to towns was extensive, many are still without power and water, and it is estimated that wind speeds reached as high as 170km/hour.

But if it could happen in the Mid-West, what about other coastal communities?

Very little was left standing in the farming town of Northampton, 465km north of Perth. Photo: Zak Hasleby.

Tropical cyclones have rarely affected areas south of Carnarvon in the past, meaning the structures in these towns and areas are not equipped to withstand such strong winds.

Despite the official Bureau of Meteorology cyclone ‘danger zone’ being from Broome to Exmouth, it’s feared more southerly tropical cyclones may be becoming more prevalent due to the changing climate.

James Cook University Physical Geography Professor Jonathan Nott recently wrote an article in which he states events like these only tend to occur in these regions every 190 years, but the figure is due to change.

He explains the increase in these events being due to global warming, which will eventually expand the areas of tropical climate to include those regions further south.

Due to the increasing likelihood of events like these, there is a call for all coastal towns north of the Perth metro area to have a more cyclone-proof plan.

Dale Alcock Homes scheduler Benjamin Dye says it will be important in the Mid-West’s recovery plan to rebuild their homes in a way to prepare themselves for such weather.

“It is extremely important that buildings in general, most importantly, cyclone prone regions for that matter, meet structural integrity to guarantee the safety of all,” he says.

“The way in which structures are ‘tied down’ with appropriate hardware play a huge role in determining what the structure can withstand.”

Kalbarri and Northampton were among the towns hardest hit, with what were once tourist hotspots and local treasures now barely recognisable.

Northampton local Zak Hasleby says the town is devastated, and despite the beginning of recovery efforts, it is a long road ahead.

It is estimated by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services that around 70 per cent of buildings in Kalbarri were damaged by the storm, and 30 per cent of these have been severely damaged.

Mr Hasleby said the support from everyone in the area has been a massive help to the clean-up efforts.