A tropical cyclone has brought down trees and powerlines in northern Western Australia, bringing damaging winds and heavy rainfall to the coastal tourist town of Broome and nearby Aboriginal communities.
Category one Cyclone Hilda passed within 16 kilometres of Bidyadanga, an Indigenous community of 1,000 people, early this morning, leaving structural damage but no reported injuries.
Police Sergeant Jennifer Boyle said it was a stressful night for residents.
“When the storm front hit us it definitely felt a lot more intense than had been predicted,” she said.
“We did go out for a little patrol during the front part of the storm and it was just really loud, really strong winds that just don’t stop.
“This morning it looks like a bit of a war zone. There’s lot of debris, branches and leaves everywhere, and a few major trees have fallen through the night.
“But all in all no major damage and no injuries to anyone, so the outcome was actually better than we expected.”
Hilda also caused extensive damage as it passed the Kimberley town of Broome, and the storm forced pool fencing through restaurant windows at the exclusive Eco Beach resort, which was flattened by Cyclone Rosita and rebuilt in 2009.
Department of Fire and Emergency Services operations area manager Glenn Hall said he was thankful there had been no reports of injuries to the community or his crews working on the ground amid extremely difficult conditions.
“At one point when there were gusts at its peak, we were certainly concerned for crews that were out in the community so we needed to take an assessment as to whether it was safe for those crews,” he said.
“Thankfully again no reports of injuries.”
Animals emerge as storms subside
Broome resident Judy Brittain, who lives near Cable Beach, said the cyclone had brought snakes out into the streets.
“(It’s a) bit like a battle zone down one of the streets, so a lot of damage,” Ms Brittain said.
“I’ve seen a couple of tree snakes, luckily they weren’t our king browns, but I think the snakes are on the move too.”
Broome port recorded wind gusts of 128 kilometres per hour last night, while Cygnet Bay, north of Broome, recorded 292 millimetres of rain in a 24-hour period.
A flood watch is current for the West Kimberley and Pilbara.
Horizon Power spokeswoman Rosie Hanson said last night more than 2,000 homes were without power in Broome, but crews working through the night had managed to get it restored to all but about 80 properties.
About 90 homes in Bidyadanga remained without power this morning, with crews battling extreme weather to complete vital repair work, Ms Hanson said.
“Customers should not go near a fallen power line, they need to stay at least 10 metres away from it, and they need to report that to our faults line,” she said.
Cyclone to track south
While the centre of the cyclone is over land, the Bureau of Meteorology said it was close the coast and would remain at cyclone intensity through the morning as it tracked south.
Hilda may weaken to a tropical low if it moved further inland to the east of Sandfire Roadhouse early this afternoon, but if it takes a more south-westerly track back over water it could intensify again.
If this happens it will likely remain a cyclone for longer before it makes landfall to the east of Wallal Downs.