Thousands of people in Western Australia are waking up without power to assess damage to their homes after Cyclone Seroja slammed into the coast and tore through townships.
The tropical cyclone, which made landfall south of Kalbarri on Sunday night as a category three storm, has since weakened to a category two system – but it continues to pose a threat to communities.
Just after 4am Monday (AEST), the weather bureau warned Seroja was continuing to move inland at more than 60km/h between the towns Dalwallinu and Mukinbudin.
More than 4300 homes lost power on Sunday night after Seroja reached land, bringing with it wind gusts of up to 170km/h.
Western Power said crews had to wait for conditions to improve before they could begin the huge task of restoring power to communities.
“Once the red alert is lifted and it’s safe, our crews will start assessing damage and responding to hazards,” asset operations manager Zane Christmas said.
A red alert remained in place early on 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.
Residents are facing destructive winds, high tides, heavy rainfall, flash flooding, dangerous surf and beach erosion.
The bureau said Seroja was expected to “weaken over the coming hours”. It was downgraded to an ex-tropical cyclone by later in the morning.
People in red-alert areas must stay at home or inside an evacuation centre.
Mr Christmas said power crews had been preparing for Seroja since Friday but the damage caused by cyclones can 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,” he said.
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 counted at daylight and could be extensive.
The cyclone brought between 30 to 60 millimetres of rain, and 166 millimetres at Kalbarri where Seroja made landfall.
The cyclone will weaken as it travels further inland on Monday but is still likely to bring damaging winds and heavy rain as it moves through the eastern Wheatbelt, southern Goldfields and South East Coastal districts.
Premier Mark McGowan said the cyclone was “like nothing we have seen before in decades”.
“This is a very large storm that is posing a very serious threat. Lives and homes are under threat,” Mr McGowan said.
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, BOM said.
The bureau issued a flood watch for the Wooramel, Murchison, Greenough, Yarra Yarra Lakes, Moore, Hill and parts of the Salt Lake District and Avon River catchments.
A severe weather warning has also been issued for Monday for parts of the Greater Perth, Goldfields-Midlands, Great Southern, and Midwest-Gascoyne regions.
“If you live in South East Coastal and parts of Goldfields, Eucla, Great Southern and Central Wheat Belt districts you need to get ready now for the severe weather coming tomorrow,” emergency warnings said.